Links for December 2022

We commented on this in an earlier links post, now Aella goes off on the same point: ​​You don’t need a perfectly random sample for useful data, jfc. She’s right by the way, as is Scott Alexander. See also Eigenrobot on twitter: “the biggest problem in both statistical practice and criticism of statistical practice is braindead insistence on following form rather than consideration of whether adherence to form is sufficient to produce the desired insight or necessary to produce any insight respectively”

The Genealogy of Chinese Cybernetics

how and why to be ladylike (for women with autism) — contains dune quotes as promised 

Bad words get more differenter over time, especially adjectives: The word for good is similar in English (“good”) German (“gut”) and Faroese (“góðan”) But the word for bad is “bad” in English, “schlecht” in German, and “illur” in Faroese. In new research, we show that this is a broader pattern that we call “valence-dependent mutation”

@selentelechia on twitter has been trying an “old 4chan iodine theory on fast food salt cravings”, which is about as crazy as it sounds, but she’s experienced some pretty good outcomes: “I’ve been doing this for two days and my hands aren’t cold anymore, nor are they taking half an hour to warm up after coming inside … I don’t feel a constant low level impulse to lie down”. Seems interesting.

Collin Lysford uses the example of IQ to point out how weird patterns of association plus noise can look like pretty generic correlations.

“Many cell lines that are widely used for biomedical research have been overgrown by other, more aggressive cells,” begins Wikipedia’s list of contaminated cell lines. “For example, supposed thyroid lines were actually melanoma cells, supposed prostate tissue was actually bladder cancer, and supposed normal uterine cultures were actually breast cancer … Estimates based on screening of leukemia-lymphoma cell lines suggest that about 15% of these cell lines are not representative of what they are usually assumed to be. … Contaminated cell lines have been extensively used in research without knowledge of their true character. For example, most if not all research on the endothelium ECV-304 or the megakaryocyte DAMI cell lines has in reality been conducted on bladder carcinoma and erythroleukemia cells, respectively.” (h/t @MasterTimBlais)

Chat GPT: Weirdly good at correcting OCR errors in historical texts. Good at condensing mind-numbing academic research into something you can actually read, just ask it to “rewrite this obtuse paper as a children’s book”. Ok at riddles until you give it a riddle with no right answer, in which case it confidently comes up with a completely nonsensical explanation. In this example, it can’t even count:

At-home caffeine analysis by a coffee YouTuber, with some surprising findings (h/t “Rachel” on twitter) 

@goblinodds asks twitter, “do both of your eyes see the same colors or is one’s input cooler-toned than the other?”, finds that 20.9% report different temperature input from different eyes. Uh???

Missed opportunity: You could have owned CHARLES DICKENS’ PICKLE FORK, for the low low price of $6,120!

“Many researchers have conjectured that the humankind is simulated along with the rest of the physical universe – a Simulation Hypothesis. In this paper, we do not evaluate evidence for or against such claim, but instead ask a computer science question, namely: Can we hack the simulation?” Science Banana draws particular attention to Table 1:

Doing science online – A view on science blogging from back in 2009. And from the same author very recently: Exploratory notes: Community as the unit of scientific contribution 

“I think of the spider whom, sitting like the iris inside a lacy eye, tugs and flexes and tightens its grip on different strings, creating an interrogative experience with web and with world. Scientists have likened this behavior to the activity of a brain itself, sifting through and reacting to stimuli. Each tug is a question, each returning vibration a reply. … extended cognition researcher Hilton Japyassú has shown that cutting a part of the silk dramatically shifted and disoriented the behavior of the spider, and seemed to imitate the effects of a lobotomy. This begs the question. Where is the spider’s mind? Is it inside the spider’s actual brain? Is it in its spinnerets or legs? Is it in the web itself?”

Great bloggers are rare, weird, and not team players. Showing our biases here, but we actually think that this is an argument for teams of bloggers, like yours trulies. For one person to be a great blogger they may indeed need to be obsessed about writing all the time & very widely read & interested in just about everything & willing to work for relatively low wages, but if your blogging team is two people, you only need to have that combination of traits between the two of you. If you can make a blogging collective of four people, you only need one person who has each of those traits! Maybe it’s a crazy scheme but we’re the ones with the hive mind over here.

If you ask ChatGPT to behave like a Linux terminal and start feeding it Linux commands, it will invent an entire fictional machine, complete with an entirely hallucinated internet that exists only inside ChatGPT’s language model. If you look in the letters folder, you can (sometimes) find John Doe’s resume.

horrifying-pdf-experiments/master/breakout.pdf (h/t @andy_matuschak)

6 thoughts on “Links for December 2022

  1. Iodine/potassium anecdote:

    Hey there. I’ve been following your potassium/lithium/obesity saga with interest for a while. Your potassium post particularly caught my interest because I’ve been annoyed at how much Gatorade costs and wanted to make my own anyway, so figured I’d try your potassium supplementation experiment, although informally enough that I didn’t participate in your data collection.

    Personal stats: Male, 39, fairly active rock climber and mountain biker but otherwise work from home in a corporate HR role. History of weight gain/loss cycles but I hover around 220lbs +- 15lbs with extremes from 200lbs to ~290lbs at various points in the last 15 years. 6’2”. Big struggles with excess (food particularly and formerly alcohol, although I quit drinking during the pandemic). I’ve also been vegan for about 5 years, Dr. says I’m healthy whenever I’ve had blood work done. Also relevant for later in the story, I’ve had a hard time through most of my adult life with mood swings, lack of motivation/energy, and likely undiagnosed depression. In case there are any vegan doubters on your end, I’ve had most of these issues forever. Switching to a vegan diet had no real impact one way or the other.

    Those last details particularly, in conjunction with the iodine link you just sent, are why I’m writing.

    I live in a small city in Canada, and it’s apparently difficult to buy the NuSalt you linked locally. While waiting for the Amazon order to arrive I went to the grocery store and bought something called half salt, which has something like 500mcg each of sodium and potassium, along with about 150 of iodine per tsp. Although I’ve been supplementing with other stuff (d3, b12, mag, zinc) for years I’d never thought about iodine and wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself via overdose.

    Upon researching I realized that vegans in particular are very deficient in iodine, so figured I didn’t need to worry. Around Oct 15, 2022, I started taking 1 tsp twice per day of the half salt, then later started adding another tsp of nusalt twice per day once it arrived.

    The difference was almost immediate within a day or two. Instead of having to lay down on the couch most evenings after work I found myself deadlifting in my basement gym just for something to burn energy off. I generally sleep better, and perhaps most importantly, your post made me realize I haven’t had any returns of my catastrophic mood swings or depressive periods that were typically fairly regular, especially in the fall and winter due to our sun disappearing. I’ve also gotten a lot of lingering errands done, seem to recover from exercise better, and am generally happier.

    Since then I’ve been mixing more nusalt as my tolerance for the taste has increased but have kept the same half salt amount as to not exceed the recommended iodine intake of something like 250mcg per day. Not sure if the benefits scale linearly so don’t want to risk over doing it.

    You may be wondering about weight. I didn’t notice any immediate weight changes as my eating is mostly habit/boredom, rather than appetite, driven. However I’m noticing it’s much easier to stick to a calorie deficit now that I’m back in diet mode to prepare for spring rock climbing season.

    So while I apologize for not having any hard data for you, I can add that this has been the easiest and most impactful dietary change I’ve made, potentially ever. Your recent email has me wondering, however, if the driver is the potassium as I originally thought, the iodine as your new email may indicate, or more likely a mixture of the two. Regardless it’s now become part of my routine and I plan to continue indefinitely. Once that bulk order arrives I may experiment with even higher doses of potassium but I suspect I won’t see much additional difference.

    The other major benefit is that I don’t have to buy Gatorade anymore, chugging my salt/potassium water is more than enough 😉

    Thanks for all the content!



    1. Maude says:

      Apparently potatoes also contain quite a bit of iodine! Maybe SMTM needs to do an iodine study similar to their potassium study. I wonder if the issue isn’t one single thing but rather widespread deficiencies in various micronutrients due to the poor quality of the modern food supply? It could be iodine, potassium, vitamin D, iron etc…


  2. Robin Green says:

    The two arguments about representative samples for uncovering correlations and noise+association covering up interesting association patterns (leaving aside the question of whether that’s actually true of IQ in particular, which appears to be pure speculation in his post) seem to be somewhat at odds with each other. I’m not saying either argument is entirely wrong – however:

    There may be odd patterns that lead to inconsistent results, with some studies showing an association, and other studies showing little or statistically-insignificant association, and still other studies showing no association at all, if e.g. one dietary factor tends to lead to an increase in body weight in humans on average, but only in the presence of a certain contaminant/pollutant, or alternatively, only in the absence of a certain mineral (see: iodine tweets). Because of this, the geography where the sample for a study is drawn from could be very relevant to the results you get, and mixing a bunch of geographies together in one study conducted over the internet could obscure – or possibly, with the right analysis and with sufficient data, illuminate – what’s really going on. Very relevant consideration for anyone researching obesity – or indeed any population-level problem where the correct causal model could be quite complex and involve a bunch of different factors!


  3. vetaro says:

    I hope to one day be the member of a blogging team. I can be the one whose only qualification is “willing to work for low wages” if someone else does the writing and having interests bits


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