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Biweekly links for 09/21/2009

by Michael Nielsen on September 21, 2009
  • Marginal Revolution: How should economists integrate their personal and professional lives?
    • “In many ways the core of blogging is a willingness to apply what you know to every problem you encounter, and see how good a job you can do of it in a more or less integrated fashion.”
  • Who Will Determine Who Pays for Equality in Health Care?
    • “Imagine that someone invented a pill… the Dorian Gray pill, after the Oscar Wilde character. Every day that you take the Dorian Gray, you will not die, get sick, or even age…The catch? A year’s supply costs $150,000.

      Anyone who is able to afford this new treatment can live forever. Certainly, Bill Gates can afford it. Most likely, thousands of upper-income Americans…shell out $150,000 a year for immortality.

      Most Americans, however, would not be so lucky. Because the price of these new pills well exceeds average income, it would be impossible to provide them for everyone, even if all the economy’s resources were devoted to producing Dorian Gray tablets.

      So here is the hard question: How should we, as a society, decide who gets the benefits…? Are we going to be health care egalitarians and try to prohibit Bill Gates from using his wealth to outlive Joe Sixpack? Or are we going to learn to live (and die) with vast differences in health outcomes? Is there a middle way?”

  • Amir Ban on Deep Junior « Combinatorics and more
    • Nice short history of computer chess.
  • Is the Internet melting our brains? | Salon Books
    • Apparently not. Who knew?
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day Aug 4 2009: Discussion
    • “In my opinion, your image also highlighted a relatively new variation of human collective intelligence. APOD is not only a picture web site — its readership define perhaps the most collectively intelligent group of sky enthusiasts in history in terms of identifying sky phenomena. The debate that took place over your image — and several other images as well — was amazing. In my opinion, this power intelligence engine zeroed in on the right answer. And your image has helped measure and calibrate this intelligence. In the future, I hope to write a paper about the powerful collective intelligence that APOD has become, and I hope to use your image — given your permission — as one example.”
  • Greg Kroah Hartman on the Linux Kernel
    • Amazing talk by Greg Kroah Hartman on the development process for the Linux Kernel. The rate of change is unbelievable – thousands of lines of code per day, many commits per hour. Loads of details about the technical and social process. All sorts of fault-tolerance in the social process: if someone disappears, the process still grinds on, and produces a reliable product. Well worth watching.
  • Style Guides for Google-originated Open-source Projects
  • A League ladder of PSI openness? | Government 2.0 Taskforce
    • “Why doesn’t Google report on governments’ preparedness to release data. It could produce a methodology and apply it consistently.” Could also be done by a not-for-profit, in a similar way to the reports issued by, e.g., Human Rights Watch, on human rights around the world.
  • Tetris effect – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • “People who play Tetris for a prolonged amount of time may then find themselves thinking about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the boxes on a supermarket shelf or the buildings on a street.[1] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of habit. They might also see images of falling Tetris shapes at the edges of their visual fields or when they close their eyes.[1] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of hallucination. They might also dream about falling Tetris shapes when drifting off to sleep.[2] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of hypnagogic imagery.”
  • World’s best Tetris player
    • This guy is to Tetris what Tiger Woods is to golf. Skip to 4:40 and watch the pieces go invisible.
  • Science fiction: The stories of now – 16 September 2009 – New Scientist
    • A letter from Virginia Woolf to Olad Stapledon about “Star Maker”: “Dear Mr. Stapledon,

      I would have thanked you for your book before, but I have been very busy and have only just had time to read it. I don’t suppose that I have understood more than a small part – all the same I have understood enough to be greatly interested, and elated too, since sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction. But you have gone much further and I can’t help envying you – as one does those who reach what one has aimed at.

      Many thanks for giving me a copy,

      yours sincerely,

      Virginia Woolf”

  • Terry Tao: A speech for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    • Terry Tao on how the internet is changing science, especially mathematics.

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  1. On the grounds that all stories are grist for a writer’s mill, here is a link to a striking “Tetris Effect” testimony by chess GM Vlad Tkachiev:

    “Even when I am not playing it doesn’t mean that chess leaves my mind. I am speaking with you, but at the same time the position against Kortschnoi is going through my mind. It is difficult to explain: I am talking with you, and everything we say is beginning to translate into chess language. You looked at me, Nf3, the girl over there smiled, Nf6, somebody fell over there, c4. This has not been described, because unfortunately the books about the subject have not been written by real chess players. Let me explain it again: Today I talked with you, I went to the swimming pool, I played a game, I went to the bar, I had dinner. And all this is beginning to be translated into chess moves. Nf3, Nf6, c4, g6. It is on the brink of madness, but I have asked many players and they have the same experience. I translate everyday life into chess moves, and it happens even if I don’t want it to.”

    People who develop computational “organisms” in Conway’s Life report similar experiences.

    One shudders to think how professional economists view the world … I *know* how surgeons come to view it.

  2. why restrict it to Health Care Benefits
    why should some people have a better job than others
    or a better house – and if some are smarter than others
    maybe brain surgery is indicated to equalize that as well.

  3. John: That’s a wonderful story!

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