Science and Technology links (August 10th, 2018)

  1. There are far fewer forest fires now than there was 15 years ago.
  2. The Earth is getting greener. There are more forests:

    We show that—contrary to the prevailing view that forest area has declined globally—tree cover has increased by 2.24 million km2 (+7.1% relative to the 1982 level).Global bare ground cover has decreased by 1.16 million km2 (−3.1%), most notably in agricultural regions in Asia.

  3. You can buy a fast 256GB memory card for barely more than $100. This is more than enough to record everything you hear during two years. It is enough to record everything you see for a week.
  4. The widespread usage of anti-cold medication helps to spread infections. If you want to be generous toward others, you should tough out your cold symptoms.
  5. I am on an all-bacon diet: Sugars (carbohydrates) increase human mortality, whereas fat reduces it.
  6. Workplace wellness programs are supposed to promote health among employees and to eventually improve productivity. In practice, they are useless as far as improving health. Yet they can help employers find out which employees are health-conscious. Thus, as an employee, you probably want to participate to signal your good health.
  7. Fewer than 15% of psychology researchers are willing to share their data with a data curation site (with or without restriction). It seems that many of these researchers are unconcerned by the fact that these records will surely go missing once they retire or die.
  8. Governments typically do not publish the results of the clinical trials they hold. A landmark decision forces the Canadian government to publish a specific set of results. There is hope that more could come in the future.
  9. Belly fat is associated with reduced cognitive function in older adults.
  10. If you are a woman, you have better odds if your doctor is a woman.
  11. High blood sugar decreases your odds if you have cancer.
  12. Why do we have 23 pairs of chromosomes and not 24 or 12, or just one chromosome? We do not know. Two teams of scientists changed the genome of yeast so it has just one chromosome, and it is almost fine.
  13. Ford Motors is trying out exoskeletons with its line employees.
  14. OpenAI defeated a team of great Dota 2 players. Dota 2 is one of the top competitive e-games around. Defeating a team of human players is a high bar.
  15. High intelligence is associated with low social conservatism and high economic conservatism. That is, smart people don’t care that their kids’ teacher is a trans-gender lesbian who smokes pot, but they favour capitalism and small governments. Oddly enough, it is hard to find political parties supporting such a mix of values.
  16. New motor and other skills can be acquired at any age.
  17. According to an article in Nature, climate change policies might increase food insecurity, more so than climate change itself.
  18. Genetically modified silkworms produce spider silk. Assuming you want lots of spider silk, that’s probably cheaper than raising spiders. I know at least one superhero who will be happy about that.
  19. Governments have few technology workers and are typically behind the time. This has apparently nothing to do with low salaries and is all down to bad management:

    After exploiting within-person variation—that is, comparing earnings for a given individual before versus after they make a switch into or out of the public sector—I find that public sector workers earn a 3.9% annual earnings premium. Moreover, they report a greater incidence and quality of non-wage benefits, which implies that their overall compensation premium is even larger. Second, public sector workers tend to report much lower levels of work-place practices, including fewer career opportunities, less intellectually stimulating work, and less responsibility and scope in their work.

    To put it bluntly, government jobs pay well, but they are boring. Young talented hackers would rather go do something fun.

  20. A robot can find Waldo. I bet that this robot was not built by a government employee.

Daniel Lemire, "Science and Technology links (August 10th, 2018)," in Daniel Lemire's blog, August 10, 2018.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

7 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (August 10th, 2018)”

  1. It has long occurred to me that unions are misplaced in public service. They should be mandatory in private workplaces beyond a certain size, and forbidden for government workers.

    This would force government to pay and occupy workers competitively, while at the same time allow them to hire and fire as necessary (within reason – competitively speaking people wouldn’t want to work for an employer that is simply capricious).

  2. Further: perhaps there should be mandatory public service – including choice of military and any other public sector work. All 18 year olds who do not take tertiary education, and all graduates of tertiary education would be screened for suitability and work a minimum of 3 years for government before departing for the private sector.

  3. The PURE study is highly controversial. In any case, it’s good to keep blood checked frequently. Good luck with the diet.

  4. Going by the abstract, that first study is for fire activity in general, not just forest fires. MODIS doesn’t discriminate by cause.

  5. >> it is hard to find political parties supporting such a mix of values [low social conservatism and high economic conservatism].

    It’s called libertarianism. In Canada, it’s, who’s led by Tim Moen, who used to think getting into politics is evil (like many libertarians do).

    Tim Moen himself says there’s no chance of his party winning in elections (at least in the near future), but he’s doing this to spread the value of libertarianism/voluntarism/non-aggression principle.

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