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Biweekly links for 09/14/2009

by Michael Nielsen on September 14, 2009
  • Paul Buchheit: Evaluating risk and opportunity (as a human)
    • Excellent post from Paul Bucheit, essentially pointing out that (a) it’s often too damn difficult to figure out expected returns from a course of action; (b) we often can get some picture of the tails of the distribution (what’s the best that can happen, what’s the worst); and (c) in iterated situations, we often care a lot more about the tails, anyway. This is an especially valuable heuristic in situations with limited downside. An example that comes to mind is hiring: there is very limited downside in approaching (potential) superstars, and you’re in an iterated situation, so you may as well swing for the fences. Yet most people think about expected value – “he/she would never want to work here”, and so confine themselves to the middle of the Bell curve.
  • I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script
  • The Bio-Economist
    • Survey of the cost of gene sequencing, synthesis etc.
  • Would You Bet Your Life? « Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP
    • Richard Lipton on how sure people really are that P is not equal to NP. As in, willing to bet money at high odds.
  • Galaxy Zoo Blog » The Hyper-Velocity Stars Project: Serendipity at its Best
    • Hyper-Velocity Stars are stars moving at very high speeds – typically a percent or more the velocity of light – relative to other local stars. This is the story of how the Galaxy Zoo Hyper-Velocity star project started small, and then snowballed, with more and more people getting involved.
  • The Canon of Medicine – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • Remarkable 1025 text by Ibn Sina, apparently describing randomized controlled trials, risk factor analysis, and an awe-inspiring range of treatments, diseases, symptoms, methods of surgery and so on.
  • The New Atlantis: Francis Bacon (1627)
    • Fascinating throughout: “We have three that try new experiments, such as themselves think good. These we call Pioneers or Miners.

      “We have three that draw the experiments of the former four into titles and tables, to give the better light for the drawing of observations and axioms out of them. These we call Compilers.

      “We have three that bend themselves, looking into the experiments of their fellows, and cast about how to draw out of them things of use and practise for man’s life, and knowledge… These we call Dowry-men or Benefactors.

      “Then… we have three that take care… to direct new experiments, of a higher light, more penetrating into nature than the former. These we call Lamps.

      “We have three others that do execute the experiments so directed, and report them. These we call Inoculators.

      “Lastly, we have three that raise the former discoveries by experiments into greater observations, axioms, and aphorisms. These we call Interpreters of Nature.”

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