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Quick Takes and Random Stuff Aug 3, 2023
Phones, romans, no more doom and gloom and more
Phones aren’t bad for just kids
This chart comes from the article More Scrolling, More Marital Problems (7/26/2023). Phones, as well as computers, can be bad for all of us, not just youths, but there is still a 10 point gap here in the 18–34 range as compared to the 35–55 range. My hypothesis on phones is that they generally lower all of our IQs (well, not mine; I don’t have one), but if you don’t have much to spare, it can be really devastating to life outcomes.
Male vs Female Employment Rate by Education
From the BLS (7/28/2023). This is an interesting chart that leads to many questions. In short, what are the drivers of these differences, and what are the consequences? Put your thoughts in the comments.
Enough with the doom and gloom
The new IPCC president takes a more sane approach. Some quotes from the telegraph article Ignore the doom-mongers, says new UN climate change chief (7/31/2023)
Prof Jim Skea, the newly elected head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that apocalyptic messaging merely “paralyses” the public and fails to motivate them to protect the planet.
“If you constantly communicate the message that we are all doomed to extinction, then that paralyses people and prevents them from taking the necessary steps to get a grip on climate change,” he said.
“The world won’t end if it gets more than 1.5 degrees warmer. However, it will be a more dangerous world. Countries will struggle with many problems, there will be social tensions.
“And yet this is not an existential threat to humanity. Even with 1.5 degrees of warming, we will not die out.”
I would like to see our leaders take this lead, discuss politically and economically feasible changes, and put some effort into adapting. Net Zero and Just Stop Oil are not going to work. People won’t voluntarily give up comforts, and the poor don’t have the resources to do much. Maybe Elon could give them all an electric car.
To be clear, I’m on the side of humans causing global warming. The science of measuring CO2 in the atmosphere and understanding it’s impact is solid. Trying to predict the exact temperature and its consequences is much harder though.
The latest nuclear plant
From the eia (8/1/2023):
We have our first new nuclear power plant since 2016 and only the second since 1996. Just think of how much less CO2 would be in the atmosphere as well as how much more we would know about nuclear reactors if we had continued to add nuclear to our electricity capacity.
Confidence in big business decreases
The Gallup article Republican Confidence in Big Business Remains Scarce (7/26/2023) focuses largely on Republican views. There is a large chart showing the Republican decline in confidence in a number of organizations from 2018 to 2023. But then they discuss this graph, including Independents and Democrats. It turns out independents and Democrats confidence in business has dropped more than that of Republicans. But we should carefully read this graph.
Why start in 1973? My guess is that was the first year this poll was done, but there is nothing special about going from 1973 to 2023. The trends are also very different. The Democrats did most of their dropping from 1998 to 2008 (they do note this) and largely haven’t changed since then. The Republicans, on the other hand, have dropped a lot in the last five years, but there has been much more variability in their views, with the current low not much below past lows. Why? Here is what they say:
However, with Republicans turning more skeptical of big business since 2020, national confidence in it is now precariously close to that unenviable level, heretofore achieved only by Congress.
Gallup hasn’t explored the specific reasons for Republicans’ newfound distrust of corporate America. However, the timing -- with the initial shift occurring between mid-2020 and mid-2021 -- spans several events that could be operative: business policies on COVID-19 vaccinations, widespread corporate support for racial justice initiatives after the death of George Floyd, and decisions by some social media platforms in January 2021 to block then-President Donald Trump over his claims about the 2020 election. To the extent Republicans’ concerns about any of these issues have subsided, more recent battles between certain Republican leaders and companies over LGBTQ+ issues may partly explain why Republican skepticism of big business persists, as could inflation.
Most of these possible reasons can be summed up as businesses taking political stances that Republicans generally disagree with. On the other hand, it hasn’t helped them with Democrats and Independents. This doesn’t seem tenable for big business. Also, the general loss of confidence in our organizations can’t be good for society.
Monitoring the poop
This is not to get folks concerned about COVID, but rather to provide an interesting example of the value of monitoring wastewater.
The level of virus in wastewater is a leading indicator, meaning it precedes the change in clinical case counts or hospitalizations.
This comes from Biobot Analytics. They also have regional wastewater analysis.
Where are the unique birds?
Here is a map from the nature article Global map of wildlife trade reveals true cost to the planet (7/26/2023). It is an interesting map, but it is also an example of how a little extra information would improve the graph. Adding the equator and the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (most of the distinct birds fall in this range) would really improve the map.
A nice quote from the article explains the complexity of an ecosystem.
For example, hornbill birds are heavily traded for their casques, the bony protrusions on their upper beaks. But as large fruit-eaters, the birds have a key role in seed dispersal in their ecosystems. If hornbills were to be depleted from an area, the vegetation would change radically, with knock-on effects for the birds, insects and other animals that inhabit the ecosystem, says Morton.
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From the paper Intelligence Trends in Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of Roman Polygenic Scores (7/23/2023). Abstract:
We analysed 127 Ancient Roman genomes with a view to understanding the possible reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire. Taking the polygenic score for educational attainment (EA4) as a proxy for intelligence, we find that intelligence increased from the Neolithic Era (Z= -0.77) to the Iron Age (Z= 0.86), declines after the Republic Period and during the Imperial Period (Z= -0.27) and increases in Late Antiquity (Z= 0.25) and is approximately at the same level today (Z= 0.08). We show that this is congruent with a cyclical model of civilization based around intelligence, with the documented history of Rome, and also with patterns of immigration into Rome.
Our results are congruent with the intelligence-based model of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire discussed earlier. In addition, we see that intelligence appears to increase from the Neolithic (c. 10,000 to 2200 BC) to the Iron Age, as has been found before (Kuijpersetal.,2022). This is consistent with evidence from Huebner’s (2005) analysis of per capita major innovation across time. He finds a peak of per capita major innovation in about 300 BC, this being shortly after the end of the Iron Age and, also, the height of Classical Greek Civilization. The increase in population density and social complexity could have selected for higher cognitive ability, a phenomenon that occurs also among non-human primates (Shultz & Dunbar, 2022).
If you are looking for an example of PCA, the article includes links to the data as well as the R file used for the analysis.
End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path to Political Disintegration, by Peter Turchin, is a worthwhile read. I read books like these for the concepts rather than for accurate predictions of future events. I think he has some wonderful ideas regarding elite overproduction and how to evaluate popular immiseration. They've gathered some fantastic historical data, and gauging immiseration through life expectancy and height increases is a brilliant idea. I also now understand what cliodynamics is. My main complaint is that there were no graphs, and there could have been. I’ll look to post some related to ideas in the book.
The spinning CD
I don’t listen to much blues, but every now and then something gets my attention. This one Problem & Remedy from Dust Radio did just that. They are on bandcamp if you want to listen to more.
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Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.