Random links

Canadian researchers who commit scientific fraud are protected by privacy laws
Seems a bit weird: "Seventy-eight Canadian scientists have fabricated data, plagiarized, misused grants, or engaged in dodgy scientific practices in projects backed by public funds, a Star analysis has found. But the publicly funded agency responsible for policing scientific fraud is keeping secret the details surrounding these researchers. The scientists’ names, where they worked and what they did wrong is not made public because that information is protected under federal privacy laws."
Over-friendly, or sexual harassment? It depends partly on whom you ask
"Opinions on acceptable male behaviour vary by age, sex and nationality" - figure illustrates the variety on views in different countries
"Nanodrops" That Repair Corneas May Ultimately Replace Glasses
Would be interesting if something like this is made to work in humans: "New eye drops developed by researchers from the Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University in Israel can improve both nearsightedness and farsightedness, the inventors claim. However, so far the “nanodrops” have only been successfully tested on pigs’ corneas."

Warnings and off-putting personalities

I already posted one article on the book Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes. Here's another few excerpts highlighting characteristics of the sort of person who might issue warnings worth thinking about:1

OFF-PUTTING PERSONALITY: Because of the frustration of seeing a threat and wondering why others can’t, because of their personal sense of responsibility for promoting understanding and action on their discovery, and perhaps because of their high level of anxiety in general, Cassandras may at times appear obsessive and even socially abrasive. While they can be personally charming under the right circumstances, many of the individuals gifted with the intelligence and strength of personality required to be a Cassandra may sometimes seem aloof, condescending, socially maladapted, or absent-minded.12 Many Cassandras might score low on what is sometimes called EQ, or the emotional quotient of personal interaction skills. That characteristic may prevent them from communicating in a way that will elicit the appropriate response to get their warnings taken seriously. The work of Lee Ross, a Stanford sociologist, demonstrates that most people are unable to differentiate a message from the messenger.

Orthogonal thought is also highlighted as an another personality characteristic:

ORTHOGONAL THINKER: Cassandras tend to be among the first to think about a certain problem or issue and often are those who acquire the data that then causes alarm. Because of their originality, Cassandras come at the issue from a new perspective and incorporate data and concepts from other fields. This characteristic is called orthogonal thinking. They have the self-confidence to be first but not the arrogance that would interfere with their understanding of the nuances of the data.

And then there's the desire to question things - which also can interact with the off-putting personality elements:

QUESTIONERS: Most Cassandras tend to disbelieve anything that has not been empirically derived and repeatedly tested. They also tend to doubt their own work initially, especially when it predicts disaster. This characteristic is more than just a belief in the scientific method. Rather, they challenge what is generally accepted until it is proven to their satisfaction. They are the philosophical descendants of Pyrrho of Elis, a philosopher in ancient Greece who accompanied Alexander the Great to India. There Pyrrho learned from Indian philosophers who challenged everything. Pyrrho’s teachings influenced another Greek philosopher who taught that all beliefs and assumptions should be challenged, that doubt, skepticism, and disbelief are healthy. This later philosopher was Sextus Empiricus, and his name is forever attached in our minds to the empirical method: doubt until proven by data, by objectively true, observable facts.

Many Cassandras seem to have incorporated Albert Einstein’s belief that “unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” When the authority figures to whom they report their warning reject their analysis for what the Cassandras believe are non-evidence-based reasons, our warners begin to lose respect for the decision makers. They often are unable to hide that disrespect well.

I think that a lot of people seem to think that for a system to be worth labeling authoritarian, it needs to ban all questioning and all dissent. It seems to me that rather questioning things can be allowed and encouraged as long as those questions target certain groups or avoid those sensitive areas.


  1. Note that this is an incomplete list of the characteristics - the other hightlighted elements are being a proven technical expert, being data driven, having a sense of personal responsibility, and being high anxiety. ↩︎

Random links

The beef industry just fired its first shot in the fight against cell-cultured meat
Basically it's an attempt to use definitions to shift people's perceptions. To quote a petition cited in the article: "[The government] should require that any product labeled as “beef” come from cattle that have been born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner, rather than coming from alternative sources such as a synthetic product from plant, insects, or other non-animal components and any product grown in labs from animal cells."
Every Single One of Marvel's GLAAD Award-Nominated Comics Has Been Cancelled
"As has been the case with these sort of cancellations in the past, it’s not difficult to understand the why of Marvel’s decision. The publisher is, above all else, in the business of making money, and if certain comics don’t sell, it makes sense to cut them."
Hyped birth control app Natural Cycles has been reported to the authorities - after 37 unwanted pregnancies
I wonder if this is one of those scenarios wherein people either assume something to be 100% effective or 0% effective, where most things don't quite fall at either extreme - "Earlier this year, Natural Cycles was part of a study which found it to be more effective than the contraceptive pill, with a 93 percent (out of 100) score on the Pearl Index under normal use."

Support for protests and the narratives they support

Part of a thread wherein the author argues that "We have these broad categories of good democratic things (like engagement) that we talk about in general terms when they align with our values, and ignore when they don't.":

Relatedly,

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