Friday, April 30, 2010

Nature, nurture and noise:
Just because some trait is not genetic does not mean it is not innate. If we are talking about how the brain gets wired, any number of prenatal environmental factors are known to have large effects. More interestingly, however, and probably a greater source of variance across the population, is intrinsic developmental variation. Wiring the brain is a highly complex procedure, reliant on cellular processes that are, in engineering terms, inherently “noisy”. Running the programme from the same starting point (a specific genotype) does not generate exactly the same output (the phenotype) every time. The effects of this noise are readily apparent at the anatomical level, when examining the impact of specific mutations, for example. In many cases, the phenotypic consequences are quite variable between genetically identical organisms, or even on two sides of the same brain.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conjecture: A necessary (but not sufficient) condition for experiencing visual beauty is a high ratio of information to area. (Here I mean information that actually informs the human viewer, like the intricacies of a fractal, as opposed to the mere entropy of a floor randomly sprinkled with confetti.)

Actually, I just want to link to some maps/graphs from, and I felt like prepending some nice words. I won't go so far as to say these images are beautiful, but they are informative, and I am pleased to look at them.
Modal US Ancestry by county
Share of world GDP since 1500: China, India, US, etc.
Technology adoption curves since 1900
Income vs Happiness---I really like this one: intranational and international correlations are elegantly shown on a single graph.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Some old blog posts I found (and particularly enjoyed) at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coming soon(?): federal price controls on health insurance. The real howler was this quote towards the end.
Water and power are essential for life,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “So they are heavily regulated, and rate increases must be approved. Health insurance is also vital for life. It too should be strictly regulated so that people can afford this basic need.”
What else is essential for life? Clothing, food, shelter... Are these regulated strictly enough? Is the public being protected from evil price increases at the grocery store?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Last week I discovered the blog Neuroskeptic and then spent much time reading through its archives. This is an instance where I heartily recommend my revealed preference.

Here are 1, 2, 3 posts I particularly enjoyed.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Steve Randy Waldman: Capital can't be measured.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Thursday, April 01, 2010