Chris Y sends along the end of the bullshitter and said, "This guy sounds like he needs to be on Unfogged." The author is upset that smartphones and easy verifiability have killed the bullshit artist, but Chris is right, what a limited perspective.
I personally feel exactly opposite of this guy, because of a major deficience in my intelligence: I'm super terrible at retrieving nouns. I can't bullshit because I can't remember any vocabulary. I can't even talk very well about subjects that I do actually know medium-well because there are missing nouns all over the place. (Maybe that's why I like writing.)
When I read something like this:
[The widespread human tendency to claim to know about topics you don't] is to ask people about "impossible knowledge" - facts they couldn't possibly know, because researchers made them up. Again and again, in studies at Cornell University, people who fancy themselves knowledgable about science will say they understand what's meant by "ultra-lipid" or "plates of parallax", while those who think they're well-versed in finance will nod along to talk of "pre-rated stocks" or "annualised credit", even though no such things exist.
I know I'd be a total dupe if tested. If someone mentioned "annualised credit", I'd wonder if that was the generally-used word for continually compounded interest on a credit or one of the other things around interest rates that I teach in a math-for-general-life course, but I'd assume it was one of those topics that I do actually know well but can't retrieve the word for*, and I'd confidently answer that I know what it is. I'd answer the question based on the category that I put the word in - "ultra-lipid"? nope, don't know anything about lipids, so I'd have said no. "Pre-rated stocks"? that sounds like something rather basic in the world of Wall Street that I might know about, so I might have said yes to that.
*Or I can't ever confidently claim that I know ALL different synonyms for something. I'd be guessing that it must be a synonym for something I know, because that seems to happen all the time.
It kind of annoys me that my post-operative infection won't go down on my jerk-surgeon's statistics, as far as hospital record-keeping goes or whatever measures Obamacare mandates, because I was already an outpatient and I just called and talked to the on-call doctor. (I do not believe any mechanism to collect data like that would be actually be bothered with, at least in Texas.) As far as I can tell, my surgeon is not actually aware that I even had an infection, although I will make sure he hears all about it at my follow-up appointment.
E. Messily writes: This is a good year for huge improbable secrets being uncovered. The Lacour thing. Various sex scandals. Caitlyn Jenner. And now, Rachel Dolezal is a black studies professor who says she's black, but now her parents say she isn't.
"The question is not as easy as it seems. There's a lot of complexities ... and I don't know that everyone would understand that. We're all from the African continent."
she responds, in the least convincing argument ever.
Heebie's take: First, what the hell was she thinking? Second, she does have quite a bit of claim to familiarity with black culture - professor of African-American studies, grew up with adopted black siblings, went to school in Mississippi, ex-husband was black - which I think makes it reasonable for her to be the president of the local chapter of the NAACP in a super-white place like Spokane that might not otherwise have a chapter.
I suppose she figured that she was sufficiently out of the public eye that she'd never get outed.
Actually: probably she started wearing her hair in braids, and with the husband, started getting treated as though she was bi-racial or black, and realized that she could pass without ever explicitly claiming to be black. And probably enjoyed the in-group feeling at academic conferences and so on. Then by the time lots of prominent people assume you're black, you're in too deep to backpeddle.
Tweety sends along this article about mathematician Vladimir Voevodsky, a Fields medalist who discovered an error in one of his own papers from years earlier and decided that math should really be computer-based in order to be convincing.
First, math is completely consensus-based. Papers that are barely read are somewhat likely to have errors, usually small but sometimes fatal. Papers that are really important but incredibly hard have a very, very few that can read them. (I was in graduate school when Perelman announced his solution to the Poincare conjecture, and the geometry professors organized a seminar for them to read the paper together, and it was fun to occasionally drop by and listen to them argue. It really is a matter of consensus.)
The reason that Voevodsky's computing solution won't catch on is this:
"The drive to mechanize proof and proof verification doesn't strongly motivate most mathematicians as far as I can tell," [Michael Harris] said. "I can understand why computer scientists and logicians would be excited, but I think mathematicians are looking for something else."
Basically it's not the right kind of fun game they want to play. It's just not as appealing.
Also: I have no idea how these programs work. Programs that prove by brute force have been around forever, so I assume this is something more sophisticated. But then I think the consensus part would just become the programming code - if you were trying to prove something incredibly hard, you'd have to gain consensus that your code actually constructed the proof.
I think Tweety just liked the neat graphics explaining homotopy theory. God, he's so basic.
What do you call a circle of wieners encircling a goopy mess?
Minivet writes: Pretty interesting read, though I'm not sure what it means practically to outsiders to the region. I guess there's some abstruse back-and-forth with the PR of the intelligence community about whether Isis can or should be equated with Al Qaeda, but I always perceived them as fairly different based on operations at least.
Heebie's take: I'm exhausted.
Ornette Coleman has died. This is good bananas.
Just what the headline says, and pretty funny.
I'm momentarily drawing a blank for things to post. I have two potential topics that I scribbled down, but neither is that great, so I'll just open with a meta-disqualifier and then share them anyway.
1. In our community, who are the sleeper smartypantses? There are tons of you that are overt smartypants (and those like myself who are overtly not, relative to this crew) but who is the commenter whose intelligent comments are underrated and passed over? Let's point them out.
I consider this not-that-great a post, because there's something distasteful about naming some people and not others. But maybe the sleeper vs. overt distinction papers over that - if you're not named, it's clearly because you're well-known to be smart.
2. I received two insults recently that irritated me. First, a friend who had been to our house a few years ago said that his basic impression of our house is that there were a lot of books and plastic toy crap. We really do not have an unruly number of books at all, and I've basically stopped acquiring paper books altogether. Second, we work very hard to restrain the plastic crap to a few designated areas. That these would form the dominant image irritates the hell out of me, because I suspect that it was informed by what he expected to see and not what was actually there.
Second, my mom periodically makes comments like, "Often in big families, kids don't get so many choices, because the parents just streamline everything." I do not like the implication that we are coddling little over-bearing parents who are running ourselves ragged in the name of service to the kids.
But these aren't that bad - they just struck a nerve. I don't know what good it does to post them. But again, writer's block so there you have it.
J, Robot sends along America's Largest Mental Facility, ie Cook County jail in Chicago. Also, the teenager Kalief Browder who was wrongly imprisoned (often in solitary) for three years recently committed suicide. Let's put all awful articles about the mass incarceration system in one thread, and that way we can contain the problem.
Setting aside the question of "what really happened," it must be said that Emma Sulkowicz is one hell of a performance artist. There was nothing extraordinary about her rape case, but the mattress performance made it national news. And now there's her video (entirely NSFW) in which she and an actor seem to reenact something like her rape. There's a lot to say about it, but three things struck me as particularly good.
1) There's a common reaction to date rape cases that goes something like this: "You were having consensual sex, and then he raped you? What does that even mean?" The video provides a powerful, all-too-plausible answer.
2) She allowed comments. It seems like a crazy thing to do, but it turns out that the volcanic spew of hate she uncapped winds up being much more powerful evidence of misogyny and "rape culture" than anything she could have written.
3) Some part of most rape stories is at least a little bit of titillation: you're invited to think about the victim in some sanitized, porny scenario of your own imagining. This was an obviously risky thing for her to do, and it's possible I'm wrong about this, but I think that by being naked and having sex on camera, she acknowledges that particular elephant in the room and sets people up to either react badly (see 2) or get past it and focus on what happened.
I know this is missing the point, but maybe officers should just always assume they're being filmed at this point.
I feel like this is so clearly satire*, except that the artist seems to be taking himself seriously.
Oh, the juxtaposition of it all! Oh the Western excess!
*ie of the photo spreads of the "here's how much groceries are consumed by families in different countries feel shame" or "here's worldwide kids standing next to all their toys, haha aren't the western little boys and girls super horrid" nature
Hey philosophers, we all know the arguments about whether some animals have "personhood" based on how much they can feel/reason/reflect, and about whether human lives are worth more than non-human lives, but does anyone make the argument that reason and will are necessary to doing evil, and therefore, among sentient beings, only human lives can be worth less than those of other animals? Because someone should.
You may not have any black friends, but how many different languages show up in your facebook feed? Pretty good, right? All of your black FB friends probably just speak boring English anyway. Negative points if you're not on Facebook.