MIT Technology Review has an article on Joshua Epstein and artificial life models. (registration required)

“Artificial society modeling allows us to ‘grow’ social structures in silico demonstrating that certain sets of microspecifications are sufficient to generate the macrophenomena of interest.”

In other words, after 250 years we’re back to the Invisible Hand. A small number of factors motivate and inform individual decisions about gathering scarce resources and how to use them. All “complex” social behavior is a result of a large number of simple interactions.

We’re back to zapping people with electricity to make them happy or else.

At his signal, two volts of electricity, enough to power a wristwatch, course through the wires and radiate outward from the tip a few millimeters in every direction. Millions of neurons bask in the electricity, and the effect is fairly immediate. Hire feels warm at first, a bit flushed.

James Flynn documented the average rise in IQ scores were over the 20th century. IQ tests are “renormed” to keep the mean score at 100. IQ test makers consistently renormed it every generation. Flynn reviewed the history of IQ tests, and noticed a trend. Every decade, the mean IQ drifted upwards. The test-makers saw the mean-IQ rise to ~105, so the made the test more difficult to renorm it to 100. The next decade, the IQs rose to ~105 on the more difficult tests, so they renormed it…

The effect was strongest on the Raven Progressive Matrices which tests abstract thinking. The Flynn effect is weakest in culturally biased tests. Literally, you are probably smarter than your grandparents and by a fair measure.

GeneExpression estimates total IQ gains and related evidence to support the Flynn effect. Human height has grown, brain mass and cranial capacity grew, and puberty occurs at earlier ages. This suggests that better nutrition is leading to greater mental and physical development.

Agricultural societies must have been more impoverished than we thought. Poor nutrition meant most people were short and dumb as mules, and humanity is only reaching it biological potential after the Industrial Revolution.

Lumo Motls has a good essay about the myths laymen have of science.

This failure of laymen to get a realistic picture of science is not just a fault of the media and science communication: it is largely a fault of the laymen themselves who often prefer colorful conspiracy theories about the interactions of people over the actual technical content of science. The truth found by science is OK but it is arguably too boring for too many people. Myths are sometimes better even if they are entirely untrue.

Early men lacked anchilles heels, like other apes. Developing this tendon allows modern men to run twice as fast with less energy expenditure.

And humans are still inefficient runners.

Primates expect others to behave rationally.

Primates infer the intention of other primates similar to how humans do. “They expect other individuals to perform the most rational action that they can, given the environmental obstacles that they face.”

Dunbar’s Number is an estimate of the sizes of human and primate social networks. Dunbar discovered that the size of the neocortex is strongly correleated to group sizes.

The average maximum network size for humans is 147.8. Some individual humans may have a larger or smaller maximum social network size. The mean clique size is just under 12. There are cognitive limitations on group sizing, so very large networks have shallow relationships compared to the intimate network.

The discovery of atomic energy came from 19th century chemistry. Chemists identified the basic elements and weighed their mass. They found that all the elements seemed to be multiples of the weight of hydrogen, but not quite. Atomic energy explained these anomalies.

Empiricism and Philosophical Idealism are complicated concepts in Philosophy so this is a broad description. I believe that the two are effectively at war with each other. Idealists and empiricists disagree about the fundamental nature of the universe, the human mind, and political interaction. The last two cause political disputes. This is my defense of Empiricism.

Epistemology must rank as one of the most boring topics possible. In short, Empiricism asks “How?” and Idealism asks “Why?”   One is answerable and the other is not.

Freeman Dyson challenges the idea of scientific consensus and calls for more heretics.

All scientific and mathematical knowledge is inconsistent or incomplete. Obviously, science can never be settled and consensus means absolutely nothing. As Freeman says “Science is organized unpredictability.” Once some damn fool makes predictions, you know he is wrong. The scientific heretics must speak up and challenge beliefs.

There is a growing amount of research into the evolution of cancer. This helps explain why the human immune system cannot defeat the disease and why treating cancer is difficult.

Carl Zimmer summarized the research in Scientific America. One of the findings is that there is a tradeoff between aging and cancer.

There is new evidence that cosmic rays may have caused past
mass extinctions. These mass extinctions occured 55 million years ago and 115 million years ago. In both cases, the biodiversity declined by 10%. Every 62 million years an unknown event occurs that causes mass extinction.

Time may not exist at all, as it turns out. We’re seeing an illusion. Sorta, at least within quantum mechanics. Time is still real enough on the macro-scopic level.

“One finds that time just disappears from the Wheeler-DeWitt equation,” says Carlo Rovelli, a physicist at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France. “It is an issue that many theorists have puzzled about. It may be that the best way to think about quantum reality is to give up the notion of time – that the fundamental description of the universe must be timeless.”


Light and Matter are good introductory texts. It’s well written, so it does not just throw formulas at you like the junk textbooks in college.

Here are the top 10 discoveries of the two Mars Rovers. The rovers were expected to last only three months, but they are still rolling three years later. Dust Devils, which are like small tornados, are cleaning the solar panels on the rovers.

Number One Discovery: Mars had Water

Sometimes failed experiments are the most important. In science, it is ok to be wrong. Scientists put forth an educated hypothesis and test it. An experiment that disproves a commonly believed hypothesis can be as revolutionary as one that proves it.

The Michelson-Morley Experiment disproved the luminiferous ether and set the foundation for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Here is the diameter of the world wide web.

They calculated the d as 18.59. Any website in their large sample was less than 19 clicks away from any other website on average. The Internet is a Small Worlds Network. Despite it’s immense size, an agent can navigate from one end to another within a few clicks.

National Geographic has an article up about Swarm Theory. How do insects and animals cooperate to engage in highly complex behavior? They are distributed individuals with no leadership and they are acting on very limited local information.

The key to understanding swarm intelligence is that it is no “Intelligent Design” so to speak. No one commands the behavior, it’s self-organizing. Swarms aggegregate all local information and acts smarter than any individual could.

Dr. Snow and Dr. Whitehead invested a Cholera outbreak in 19th century London and discovered that the disease spread through contaminated well water.

Epidemiology does not require specific knowledge of a disease. It studies interactions to learn how a disease spreads. It uses pattern analysis to understand how the environment, social networks, and infectious agents interact to cause an epidemic.

Sciencehack filters youtube and google science videos. Each video is reviewed to ensure accuracy…
So here’s a flaming gummy bear.

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