June 2021 (Links, NMR)
The latest news: India is doing a bit better, as is Japan; the UK is doing worse suddenly.
Why is India doing better? Brett Weinstein is convinced that Ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug that some countries have used to combat COVID, is the reason. In fact, he says that it (a) works as a treatment within a day, (b) has >99% effectiveness, and (c) can be used preemptively to prevent infection before it happens. Also it's safe and you can take it continuously until "it eradicates COVID". All this smells too good to be true, and very much like the Hydroxycloroquine story we heard about last year, but he and his podcast guest insist the evidence is overwhelming. Ivermectin is currently not approved as a treatment for COVID by the FDA, for reasons that Brett thinks are conspiratorial (a belief he infuriatingly never explained in 2.5 hours of talking around it). I'll be looking into this in the near future.
Japan is trying to hard to ramp up vaccination, but remains at the few % level. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are set to arrive to Japan for the "2020" Olympics in Tokyo. It may be a disaster, and apparently Japan can't cancel without the International Olympic Committee's agreement to cancel. Well, they can, but they risk massive penalties and so far think it's still better to risk it. We'll see what happens this month.
Israel is done with COVID. It's over. My friends on the ground say that the last restrictions (masks, gatherings, etc.) are lifted as of today (June 1); previously this was only true for those with a Green Pass, which confirms one's vaccination status, but they are doing away with that now too. It's really over.
The US is doing better with vaccines; now demand is running low as supply runs high. In response, Biden has announced that the US will start sharing the "extra" vaccine doses that it can't use, e.g. a million doses of Astrazeneca that are not approved by the FDA.
We've heard that the COVID vaccines are "95% effective" or whatever, but do you know what that means? This cleared it up for me (it's the Relative Risk Reduction, RRR). On the topic, here's an argument for using more than just one number to characterize how useful a vaccine is.
Scott makes the case for a new city-state in Honduras. Very convincing; I mentioned the article to my wife in passing, and she was immediately sold on moving there if the university (that doesn't exist yet) will hire me.
Matt Yglesias on government assistance, and why vouchers are worse than cash.
Also Matt: Sometimes bad ideas get shared not because anybody is confused, but because nobody has the nerve to call them bad, especially if they're adjacent to the culture war battle du jour. (I do recommend Matt Yglesias' Substack, "Slow Boring", but due to time constraints and too many other things to read I felt I wasn't getting my money's worth, so I cancelled my subscription after 2 months. Check it out though if you want nearly-daily takes on the latest Real World stuff.)
Trump has a new website (blog?? he treats it like Twitter I guess), probably to insulate himself from being cancelled more than he was when every form of social media took down his accounts. (UPDATE June 2: Oops, he's done with it now.)
Tim Urban and his wife want to make going to the doctor a nice experience rather than a hellish one. This seemed like the kind of thing my wife might be interested in (a more holistic approach to medicine), but when I told her she informed me that these kinds of clinics have been around for some time. Maybe there's some detail that makes this one better, I don't know, but the idea still sounds nice and when we settle somewhere we might sign up.
New results on the "muon g-2" parameter confirm a large statistical anomaly, possibly pointing to new fundamental physics. But lattice results (think, big computational program set out to do the theory calculation more precisely) say the theory and experiment basically agree. As usual, everybody is going to go ahead and do whatever they want anyway while we wait for more data.
Science is fundamentally broken, more on this after we argue about the race of a school shooter. Like seriously, I read this paper and I don't see any conclusion other than "oh god oh god oh god what if everything is false". More and more, I think there is no objective science, only a bunch of subjective science that hopefully cancels each other out and leaves a tiny kernel of truth somewhere. There are no good scientists, but if we're careful, maybe we can still have good science in aggregate.
Someone thinks the academic jobs crisis is fake, because we're all a bunch of spoiled brats who want things to be handed to us. On the other hand, things like this keep happening. My view from the inside is that 100s-1000s of high-skill people (in my field alone) dedicate decades of their life (their 20s and increasingly their 30s too) trying to win a research job from a smaller and smaller pool of available ones, even though they are willing to take huge pay cuts relative to their talent and training. If you want people to continue to do this, and in doing so (hopefully) pull the best and brightest to low-paying jobs working long hours to advance the cutting-edge of science, you should at least let them believe that their struggle is noble and worthwhile.
Also in academia: "I'll finish it this week, and other lies," unironically one of the best papers I've read in a long while.
One of those games where you guess if an academic paper is real, or made up by an AI. Seems to me that a person like James Lindsey could make a big splash by setting one of these up with Social Justice themes.
Jacob Falkovich on Mandatory Obsessions (as prescient as in 2018 when it was written, probably even more so).
Just for Fun
Fun Japan thing of the month: Kintsugi (金継ぎ, "golden joinery") is the art of repairing cracked or broken ceramic with gold, the idea being that imperfections are not to be hidden, but made more noticeable and beautiful.
The ultimate Josh Battle: the winner gets was crowned the ultimate Josh. The winner was Little Josh, an 4 year-old boy.
4D chess is too easy? Try 5D chess with multiverse time travel.
The latest in weird animal wars: Have you heard of the Gombe Chimpanzee War? A large party of chimps separated themselves from their tribe and tried to form their own; they were all massacred in an all-out war by their previous tribe. (Tell me again about how nature is perfect and beautiful and kind.)
New Month Resolution
Last Month, I resolved to
[Body] (a) not drink alcohol, and (b) go to the gym at least 2 times per week;
[Spirit] (a) stop stress-picking my nails, and (b) meditate at least 2 times per week.
I still hit only ~50% days sober (fail), but completed gym-type exercise 8 times in a month which roughly averages to twice a week (though two of the four weeks I still only went once, 1/2 success).
I half-succeeded in stopping nail-picking, and succeeded in meditating twice per week.
In June 2021, I resolve that:
[Body] I will stick to the Whole 30 diet (worth 3 points rather than just 1).
[Mind] I will complete at least four MLU posts (including this one).
[Spirit] I will meditate at least twice per week.
Current tally: Body/Mind/Spirit = 4.5/2.0/4.5 points.