Assorted links XIV

  1. Augmented manipulation ability in humans with six-fingered hands

can the human brain deal with the complexity to control an extra limb and yield advantages from it? […] Anatomical MRI of the supernumerary finger (SF) revealed that it is actuated by extra muscles and nerves, and fMRI identified a distinct cortical representation of the SF. […] Polydactyly subjects were able to coordinate the SF with their other fingers for more complex movements than five fingered subjects, and so carry out with only one hand tasks normally requiring two hands.

  1. The Spirit Level ten years on

In summary, most of the biggest claims made by Wilkinson and Pickett in The Spirit Level look even weaker today than they did when the book was published. Only one of the six associations stand up under W & P’s own methodology and none of them stand up when the full range of countries is analysed. In the case of life expectancy - the very flagship of The Spirit Level - the statistical association is the opposite of what the hypothesis predicts.

If The Spirit Level hypothesis were correct, it would produce robust and consistent results over time as the underlying data changes. Instead, it seems to be extremely fragile, only working when a very specific set of statistics are applied to a carefully selected list of countries.

  1. I’ve been called out

The allure of “meta” and “axiomatic first principles” is that it’s kinda like get-rich-quick thinking but for epistemics. Get a few abstractions really right and potentially earn more than you would grinding as an object-level wage slave for decades.

  1. Experiments for Policy Choice

Trying to identify the best policy is different from estimating the precise impact of every individual policy: as long as we can identify the best policy, we do not care about the precise impacts of inferior policies. Yet, despite this, most experiments follow protocols that are designed to figure out the impact of every policy, even the obviously inferior ones.

  1. Six cloned horses help rider win prestigious polo match

Cambiaso rode six different horses to help his team win. […] What is noteworthy is that all six horses were clones of the same mare—they’re named Cuartetera 01 through 06. […] “Every scientist that deals with epigenetics told me this would never work,” says Meeker