Links for January 2023

@MegaDarren on twitter: “Just learned that Dutch scientists left a hamster wheel outside in 2014 and saw that tons of wild mice used it just for fun as well as frogs and slugs? All the creatures of the forest wanted a turn?? Absolutely phenomenal” @EvilCactus comments: “I hear the Rocky theme play in my mind every time I look at that photo of the snail. Might print it out and use it as a motivational poster.” Original paper is here.

Phytomining for lithium: “…the team also studied which plants could accumulate lithium from the soil at high concentrations. Starting with 34 candidates, the scientists eventually whittled the list down to just three: cabbage, rapeseed and sunflower.” The original paper appears to be Induced Plant Accumulation of Lithium. From the abstract: “The question we sought to answer was, can any of the plant species investigated accumulate Li at levels high enough to justify using them to agro-mine Li. Results show maximum accumulated levels of >4000 mg/kg Li in some species.” 

Joseph Rotblat reflects on why he left the Manhattan Project in 1944.

N = 1 study on improving finger strength, with wild results (h/t Applied Divinity Studies). Warning: don’t try this at home if you don’t have lots of climbing experience.

​​​​Ray Bradbury on the Mysteries of the Universe

Teen Vogue profile of Goddard College

Unusual proposal: Status Microtransaction Paradigm of Psychology. Probably not the grand paradigm we’re looking for, but we like how fresh it is. 

“It seemed absolutely crazy. The idea that an Iowa housewife, equipped with the cutting-edge medical tool known as Google Images, would make a medical discovery about a pro athlete who sees doctors and athletic trainers as part of her job?” Doesn’t seem crazy to us! Extremely condescending tone aside, this is an interesting read. The most recent update we were able to find is this GoFundMe from October 2022.

“Wild how little is known about the genes at the top of the [list of genes with the strongest effects on obesity] (UBR2, GPR75); the Wikipedia pages for these genes are ~5 lines”

​​Great investigative work by Ivan Vendrov on twitter:  

The famous “36 questions that lead to love”… don’t. The NYT and everyone else reported a different set of questions from the same authors, modified to be less romantic! The original set of *40* questions wasn’t online, but I emailed the authors and got a copy. 

In particular we want to emphasize the moral Ivan draws from this story, which seems to us entirely correct: 

I continue to be amazed at the incredibly high returns to “just check the original source”. Thanks to @alexeyguzey, @slatestarcodex, @ArtirKel and the o.g. Noam Chomsky for hammering this lesson over and over again until it stuck with me.

weird medieval guys on twitter: “a lot of people in medieval england paid their rent in eels. if you live in england, you can use this map of real, documented eel rents to possibly find out how many eels your home town was worth….thank me later!” Our English readers are encouraged to find out for themselves the answer to this pressing question: “were your ancestors getting scammed out of their precious eels by greedy landlords?” Eel Value Tax fixes this.

And for those of you not on the rainy isles, you may be as surprised as us to hear of this daring UK jewelry heist from 2015. “It was reported that the burglars had entered the premises through a lift shaft, then drilled through the 50 cm (20 in) thick vault walls with a Hilti DD350 industrial power drill. … video showed people nicknamed by the newspaper as ‘Mr Ginger, Mr Strong, Mr Montana, The Gent, The Tall Man and The Old Man’.”

Argument: Because the borders of an empire can’t be more than one month of travel away from the capital, Earth will keep the moon colony but Mars will become independent. Important implications for Gundam fanatics.

Benzene as another candidate for the cause of the obesity epidemic? Low Grade Benzene Exposure Induces Metabolic Dysbalance and Hypothalamic Inflammation in Mice (h/t @sparrowhawkcap on twitter)

Soviet leadership reportedly had nightmares about nuclear war

Stanisław Leszczyński: Wins the throne of Poland in a civil war, loses it, another civil war happens, wins back the throne, yet another civil war, loses it again, ends up as Duke of Lorraine, dies when his silk robe catches fire when he falls asleep by the fireplace. Still somehow the longest-living Polish king. 

Before Scooby-Doo there was The Famous Five, a series about four children and their dog Timmy who go on adventures or solve mysteries. Apparently this series was wildly popular at the time, but we’ve never heard of it. The five are led by George, who “gets cross when anyone calls her by her birth name” and “[asks] that her name be prefixed with Master instead of Miss.”

Rodney Brooks makes predictions and scores predictions from past years about three topics: 1) self driving cars, 2) artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics, and 3) space travel. His conclusion: “In the last couple of years I have started to think that I too, reacted to all the hype, and was overly optimistic in some of my predictions. My current belief is that things will go, overall, even slower than I thought five years ago.” Only time will tell, but take a look at this updated view from 2018 if you need an antidote to the hype around some of these subjects.

Tamara and Tess are running a self-experiment on remissions they experienced in their ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) symptoms after taking antibiotics. The first phase of the project is fully funded but they are still accepting donations.

60 Minutes covers semaglutide, gives some mainstream attention to the fact that doctors don’t understand obesity, and to the idea (widely accepted in the research world) that diet and exercise aren’t the end-all be-all of treatment, that willpower isn’t the issue. This is the one you can show to your mom (figuratively or literally). 

Is director James Cameron the greatest living anthropologist? 

Unusual claim that foods containing more potassium are also better at sating hunger (h/t InquilineKea on twitter). Not sure about where these figures come from, and they make a number of strange claims, but we’re sharing this link just in case.

Michael Nielsen on discovery fiction. We like this idea a lot, someone should write a set of textbooks that are all discovery fiction (there are a few similar books already). We might do this at some point, but in the meantime if you’re interested in writing or funding such a project, let us know, maybe we can put people in touch.

3 thoughts on “Links for January 2023

  1. The benzene paper is very interesting. Leaded (tetraethyl lead) gas was banned in the late 1960s. Catalytic converters hit California in 1970.

    We spent another 10-15 years cycling out the nation’s auto fleet from pre-catalytic to catalytic. The converters emit a different “benzene profile” than before. This is, of course, a major fraction of our pollution intake, and it changed around the time of the start of the obesity epidemic in the 80s.


  2. Anonymous Goose says:

    It is very intriguing you have never heard of the Famous Five. It was the most famous young adult series (before Harry Potter) in Slovenia in the 1990s when I was growing up. Can’t tell you about the popularity before/after that. Maybe it is the European or German influence?


  3. Corwin says:

    Just stumbled over the CFS thing in Jan archives. I am 40 years with CFS. I always thought something reset how I was doing. Kind of fits in. Thank You for the link


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