Link roundup: Oct–Dec 2021

6 minute read


Humility, by contrast, admits that defeat is possible. It occupies the nebulous zone between preparedness and precaution by asking a moral question: not what we can achieve with what we have, but how we should act given that we cannot know the full consequences of our actions.
“Preparedness” Won’t Stop the Next Pandemic

Rather than trying to beat the coronavirus one booster at a time, the country needs to do what it has always needed to do—build systems and enact policies that protect the health of entire communities, especially the most vulnerable ones. Individualism couldn’t beat Delta, it won’t beat Omicron, and it won’t beat the rest of the Greek alphabet to come. Self-interest is self-defeating, and as long as its hosts ignore that lesson, the virus will keep teaching it.
Ed Yong | America Is Not Ready for Omicron

For instance, in Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue, Socrates runs into the local priest and expert on the gods, the self-same Euthyphro, who plans to do something unholy by the local standards – to press charges against his own father. Socrates asks how he, a man wise in the ways of the gods, could do something the gods would obviously condemn?

Euthyphro answers that, in fact, his plan passes the gods’ standards. This raises only more questions for Socrates, who presses on and asks Euthyphro to clarify what he means by holiness. If Euthyphro’s plan is so holy, surely he could explain his reasoning and spell out the nature of holiness? Under questioning, though, Euthyphro reasons himself into a corner, unable to give a clear account of holiness. The dialogue ends there, with the premier theologian of Athens excusing himself with a version of ‘I’m actually late for a thing.’
How do you know?

Researchers from Harvard and the University of Virginia brought subjects into a lab where they had to choose between two torture devices. The first option was to push a button that would deliver a safe, but still sharply unpleasant, electric shock to themselves. Two-thirds of the men in the study chose to shock themselves despite the fact that they’d 1.) all been shocked in an earlier phase of the study, and 2.) all professed that they would pay money to avoid the unpleasant experience in the future.
Why Stories Are Like Taking Drugs

Sigmund Freud once stated that no one believes in their own death. In the unconscious, there is a blank space where knowledge of this one sure thing about our futures should be.
Life after death: how the pandemic has transformed our psychic landscape

Inverting the old cliché, Christopher Hitchens said, ‘Everyone has a book in them and that, in most cases, is where it should stay.’

You’ve probably heard the probabilistic (aka Bayesian) side of things before. Instead of thinking “I’m sure global warming is fake!”, try to think in terms of probabilities (“I think there’s a 90% chance global warming is fake.”) Instead of thinking in terms of changing your mind (“Should I surrender my belief, and switch to my enemy’s belief that global warming is true”), think in terms of updating your probabilities (“Now I’m only 70% sure that global warming is fake”). This mindset makes it easier to remember that it’s not a question of winning or losing, but a question of being as accurate as possible. Someone who updates from 90% to 70% is no more or less wrong or embarrassing than someone who updates from 60% to 40%.
Scott Alexander

Pundits have urged people to “listen to the science,” as if “the science” is a tome of facts and not an amorphous, dynamic entity, born from the collective minds of thousands of individual people who argue and disagree about data that can be interpreted in a range of ways.
Ed Yong

In other words, “vibes” are similar to the approximations that machine learning systems use, and the two feed off of each other synergistically. The situation is precisely encapsulated by Goodhart’s Law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
Ludwig Yeetgenstein

How COVID vaccines shaped 2021 in eight powerful charts
J Chem Inf Model | Making it Rain: Cloud-Based Molecular Simulations for Everyone
Nature | Synthon-based ligand discovery in virtual libraries of over 11 billion compounds
Top DATA SCIENCE Cheatsheets (ML, DL, Python, R, SQL, Maths & Statistics)
J Med Chem | Explainable Machine Learning for Property Predictions in Compound Optimization
Tomas Pueyo | The Omicron Question
To Touch the Sun
Life after death: how the pandemic has transformed our psychic landscape
4 Dead Infants, a Convicted Mother, and a Genetic Mystery
All the Biomass on Earth
Pascalian Medicine
It’s Time to Fear the Fungi
How to Fight Ocean Plastic
DeepChem aims to provide a high quality open-source toolchain that democratizes the use of deep-learning in drug discovery, materials science, quantum chemistry, and biology.
COP26: Can countries be forced to meet net zero targets? And more questions
How Special Is Science?

Voice above water
How to know what you really want
‘I Would Give Anything to Hold Their Hands Again’
Review: Delia Falconeron Amitav Ghosh | A Dazzling Synthesis
Freeze en Place: How to Use Your Freezer as a “Cooking” Tool
The End of the Dinosaurs
How to rest well
How we became weekly
SMBC | Morality
Energy, and How to Get It
Bamboolib: One of the Most Useful Python Libraries You Have Ever Seen
Sci-Fi Icon Neal Stephenson Finally Takes on Global Warming
And the Walls Came Down
Composer and academic solves historical puzzle to bring the sounds of Ancient Rome to life
Spinoza’s God: Einstein believed in it, but what was it?
Kill the Travel Bug: The Case for Staying Put

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