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Māris Ozols
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Cambridge
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Cambridge
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Would you have the guts?

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An analysis by +Yonatan Zunger of the past 24hs of Trump's administration's actions, including the #MuslimBan. Extremely concerning!

Read some more here:
https://plus.google.com/+YonatanZunger/posts/T72eVRRHv39
https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/what-things-going-wrong-can-look-like-400f84a0cc3a
The news continues to develop almost faster than I can type analyses. But I've tried to round up the most critical updates from the past few hours, together with a discussion of what they mean.

The short version is this: we're seeing the formation of an "inner circle" of government, including Trump, Bannon, Miller, Kushner, Priebus, and possibly Flynn and Conway, who have been taking deliberate steps to hobble the ability of all other parts of government – the rest of the Executive branch, Congress, and most especially the courts – from controlling them. Somewhat unexpectedly, they went straight for an attempt to grab extraordinary physical powers over people (yesterday's Muslim ban), rather than trying to boil the frog slowly; in the context of other moves taken over the past week, this starts to look like a coherent strategy.

Power, including the power to execute every one of the things that Trump promised to do during the campaign, is the primary goal; money, in large, untraceable quantities, appears to be the secondary.

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An interesting article about thermodynamics, information, and life. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Life can be considered as a computation that aims to optimize the storage and use of meaningful information.

A thermodynamically optimal machine must balance memory against prediction by minimizing its nostalgia — the useless information about the past.

I'm thinking of this one in analogy with society:

System of particles experiences a kind of urge to preserve freedom of future action, and that this urge guides its behavior at any moment.

And of course, this is how it all ends:

The thermodynamics of information copying dictates that there must be a trade-off between precision and energy. An organism has a finite supply of energy, so errors necessarily accumulate over time. The organism then has to spend an increasingly large amount of energy to repair these errors. The renewal process eventually yields copies too flawed to function properly; death follows.
Just how special (or not) is biology? Meaning and intention are key traits of living systems. An ongoing discussion between biologists and physicists suggests that if physics is behind these characteristics, it probably has to do with an idea at the heart of fundamental physics — information. 

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It is two and a half minutes to midnight

Science and Security Board of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has just moved the Doomsday Clock 30s forward. This symbolic clock has been maintained since 1947 and it represents a countdown to a possible global catastrophe, such as global nuclear war or threats due to climate change or new technologies.

Part of the reason for this year's move:

Rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a US presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.

Read the full announcement here:
http://thebulletin.org/sites/default/files/Final%202017%20Clock%20Statement.pdf

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Very powerful!

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This article provides a simple explanation of the recently discovered WhatsApp vulnerability. The punchline is that your contact's public key can change without you knowing that this has happened, at which point you can no longer be sure tho whom you're talking to.

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The supposed connection between autism and vaccines has risen from the dead again and is now here to stay!

Donald Trump has just asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of the most prominent US skeptics of childhood vaccines, to chair a panel on vaccine safety. This move is in the same spirit as hiring Myron Ebell, a prominent climate change denier, to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency. So what's next -- a creationist to lead a panel on evolution?

* https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/10/trump-vaccine-critic-robert-f-kennedy-jr/
* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/10/us/politics/donald-trump-transition.html
* http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/01/exclusive-qa-robert-f-kennedy-jr-meeting-trump-proposed-vaccine-commission

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Wow, so cool!
The way these things appear to move makes them look rendered rather than real, but they're real. Just carefully shaped and strobed. Via +Colossal at https://plus.google.com/+Colossal/posts/FrPnufXY2cy

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Just skimmed through the 2012 poll on P vs NP - very entertaining!

https://www.cs.umd.edu/~gasarch/papers/poll2012.pdf

One of my most favorite answers is by Ronald Fagin:

I have proven (at least twice) that NP != co-NP, and I’ve also proven (also at least twice) that NP = co-NP. [...] One of my proofs that NP does not equal co-NP (from the late 1990’s) survived for about 3 days and fooled some very smart people into believing it. It turned out that the bug in my proof was (believe it or not) a misuse of Fagin’s Theorem.

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I highly recommend this survey on the P vs NP problem by Scott Aaronson! Just started reading it and I can't stop. Notably, it includes a chapter on GCT (Geometric Complexity Theory), also known as the "string theory" of computer science.

http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3095
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