Science and Technology links (November 14th 2020)

  1. COVID 19 forced enterprises to move to remote work. There has been decades of research showing that allowing workers to work remotely improves job satisfaction and productivity. It improves work-family balance. It reduces sick leaves. Not absolutely everything is positive, but much if it is. So why are employers reluctant to allow remote work? According to some researchers, it has to do with worker selection. That is, everything else being equal, if you recruit people to work from home, you will tend to disproportionally attract people who are lazy or incompetent. (I am not sure how broadly applicable this idea is.)
  2. There is increasing evidence that Alzheimer’s begins in the gut.
  3. The claim that more people are alive today than have ever died appears to be wrong.
  4. Schools adopt face recognition technology.
  5. Increasing your protein consumption is likely to make your body more muscular: slightly increasing current protein intake for several months by 0.1 g/kg/d in a dose-dependent manner over a range of doses from 0.5 to 3.5 g/kg/d may increase or maintain lean body mass.
  6. Is social science free from political biases? Despite what they assume, social scientists are probably not free from such biases and the consequences are probably quite bad, say Honeycutt and Jussim. For example, papers finding biases against women receive far more citations than papers failing to find such biases, despite the fact that the papers finding biases might be far weaker methodologically.
  7. Measured intelligence in human beings vary by ethnic origin. Lasker et al. attempt to relate this effect to both skin color and European ancestry. They find that skin color is not a significant variable while European ancestry appears to correlate well with measured intelligence. The whole topic is often considered to be outside of the Overton window and most social scientists would consider such inquiries to be unacceptable. I personally object to the current state of intelligence research on other grounds: as a computer scientist, I find that psychologists play with the concept of intelligence without ever definining it properly. That is, while you might be measuring something, you should make sure that you really understand what you are measuring. Someone’s height is a well defined attribute but “intelligence” is not a comparably well defined attribute. That you can quantify “something” does not imply that you know what you are measuring. I challenge psychologists to relate intelligence to the Church-Turing thesis.
  8. In mammals, babies can often repair injuries without scars, but this ability is quickly lost and adults accumulate scars over time. There is protein found in the skin of baby mice, but usually not present in adult mice. When applying this protein to the skin of adult mice, we find that the adult skin regains the baby-skin ability to regenerate without scars. In effect, this single protein rejuvenates the adult skin.
  9. According to Carlsmith, we might be within range of being able to match the human brain using maybe tens of thousands powerful processors. Using current technology, it would be costly though not for corporations like Google. In fact, the cost is sufficiently low that the work could be done in secret, if Carlsmith is right.
  10. 1% of the world’s population emits 50% of CO2 from commercial aviation.
  11. Apple has released a processor/system for their laptop called M1. It powers both the recently released MacBook Air and the smaller MacBook Pro. It has 16 billion transistors. Unsurprisingly, maybe, that is more than the number of transistors that you can find in the latest iPhone, which has about 12 billion transistors. But the iPhone 7 had about 3.3 billion transistors. The iPhone 5s had about a billion transistors. If you look at long-term charts of the number of transistors inside our systems, we appear to be maintaining an exponential growth in the number of transistors. Interpreted as an exponental fall in the number of transistors in commonly available processors, Moore’s law is very much alive even though we keep hearing that the end is in sight. In turn, this unavoidably leads to higher and higher performance as our chips are able to do more per unit of time. Interestingly, the power usage itself also tends to fall. The early Pentium 4 mobile processors at the beginning of the century consumed 35 Watts for the processor alone: you can probably charge your whole iPhone for a day of us using 35 Watts for 15 minutes. For comparison, you brain consumes about 20 Watts.
  12. Though we do not have AIDS (HIV) vaccine yet, we might finally have a drug that reliably protects us (at least women) from getting infected.

Daniel Lemire, "Science and Technology links (November 14th 2020)," in Daniel Lemire's blog, November 14, 2020.

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Daniel Lemire

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

4 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (November 14th 2020)”

  1. No – not yet. I’ve sent a request for more info to the Science Editor / Author of the article, at the Telegraph. If/when I get a response, I’ll post here.

  2. In relation to point 7, this particular result does not surprise me personally, as if one looks into the history of intelligence testing, it generally emerged in such a way as to test the “European-ness” of one’s knowledge rather than any sort of generic intelligence and in a background of racial discrimination, and has had difficulty removing itself from that history (at least in part due to current unconscious biases).

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