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Short musings

When I was 17 my lowest grade was in math and I thought I wasn’t good at it. One year later I was obsessed with it. Things can change.

Robin Hanson says that academia views impractical research as more prestigious. Yes, pure mathematics and theoretical physics are impractical and prestigious but ceteris paribus a research finding plus an application is more prestigious than just a research finding.

There’s a meta-contrarian idea that the mechanisms of academia exclude some really good science that’s just too unconventional. This is not true to the extent claimed.

Computer algebra is useful but discovering new algorithms to automate mathematical work is hard.

As Robin Hanson and Steve Levitt say, life is long. There’s lots of time to do lots of different things.

Re: Where are All the Successful Rationalists?, rationality is an important scientific concept in AI, finance, and statistics; its value as a self-help technique is not so clear.

Juergen Schmidhuber is right and Tyler Cowen is wrong: China will surpass the US in dominance this century.

Geoffrey Miller and Robin Hanson have different views on what people are signaling when they engage in politics: Miller says personal traits and Hanson says tribal loyalty. Presumably it’s some of each but I find Miller more convincing.

Robin Hanson says meditation is about signaling who’s a better meditator. This is an example of meta-contrarianism at one too many levels of meta.

Here Robin Hanson proposes a much more efficient method of small claims resolution. The Enlightenment was about such ideas: approaching economic problems rationally where previously no one realized there was a problem.

The rapid decision-making abilities of basketball and soccer players impress me as much as the physical.

“Up to 40%” of travelers from developed to developing countries get travelers’ diarrhea; “in the normal population 1% to 2% of persons per year will develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and 5% to 6% of travelers after traveler’s diarrhea will develop IBS”; and “the prevalence of depression and anxiety in IBS patients is 37.1 and 31.4% respectively”.

The Princeton Companion to Mathematics says “algebraists like to work with exact formulas and analysts use estimates. Or, to put it even more succinctly, algebraists like equalities and analysts like inequalities”. In computer science, algebraists like programming languages and analysts like algorithms and complexity. Or, to put it even more succinctly, algebraists like lambda calculus and analysts like Turing machines.

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