Claudia Goldin won the economics Nobel “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes.” Her work “showed that female participation in the labour market did not have an upward trend over a 200 year period, but instead forms a U-shaped curve” (via @NobelPrize)
“Unlike other antivenom treatments which are specific to a type of snake, varespladib methyl is capable of curing a broad spectrum of bites from different snake species. This means that the infamous line found in older first-aid manuals for treating snake bites (‘If possible, catch the snake…’ – so that the doctors can identify which antivenom to give), can now thankfully be ignored.” Varespladib methyl is the molecule of the month
“What is progress?” I don’t think there’s much difficulty in the concept of “progress,” it just means a movement forward along some path. The difficulty is in: which path, toward what end? There’s also not much difficulty in understanding what progress means in science, technology, or the economy: it is an advance in our knowledge and capabilities, our ability to understand and manipulate/control the world. The difficulty is in defining human progress, and understanding how it relates to the other forms. In general, I would say that human progress is anything that helps people live better lives: longer, healthier, happier lives; lives with more choice and opportunity; lives of thriving and flourishing. (Threads)
When we think about “state capacity”, we should make a distinction between state effectiveness and state scope. If a given function (building infrastructure, responding to pandemics, etc.) is a government function, then it is a government responsibility, and it’s important for government to be good and effective at that thing, and not be interfered with. But separately we can debate which functions are good ones to give to the government and which are better private. I find that the concept of “capacity” can blur these distinctions. (Twitter, Threads)
John Carmack’s book challenge: “I appreciate that there are many people who roll their eyes at my optimistic-libertarian-technological-triumphalist take on things … suggest a book for me to read that you think will challenge my worldview”
“Starlink satellites orbit at around 550 km of altitude. What if we could build satellites that could orbit at half that altitude? Cutting transmission distance in half would mean cutting power requirements for handsets by a factor of 4. There’s enough atmospheric drag at 250 km that satellites there will deorbit within days. How do you build a satellite that can stay there indefinitely? Air-breathing propulsion” (@elidourado)
“Most things with a combustion engine will be replaced with a battery in years to come. … Tipping point economics will be different for each use case. Currently: lawnmowers”
“22% of the children born in 1950 died before they were five years old. Since then, child mortality has fallen to 3.7%. Our animation shows this wasn’t just due to progress in a few countries. People around the world have achieved improvements” (@MaxCRoser)
“There should be a test like the series 65 that just gives you permission to access any pharmaceuticals you want. Accredited ingestor status” (via @devonzuegel)
“In the 19th Century, the only planning requirement infrastructure had to go through was a committee of five MPs, who couldn’t own land in the route, represent a constituency there, or have shares in a railway proposal they considered” (@bswud) Related: “If we tried to build the Panama Canal today the plan would never pass an environmental impact review process” (@rasheedguo)
“In America’s history, we see celebration of competent, principled and strong men. Not only did we cherish it, we invested heavily in enabling more” (@codyaims)
“When Bell Labs announced the transistor – arguably the most important invention of the modern age – the New York Times buried the story on page 46. Don’t get discouraged if people don’t understand the value of what you’re working on” (@sethbannon)
“The Roman Empire produced several million square meters of polished marble slabs, this was possible because it invented and used water-powered stone-cutting machines” (@lefineder)
The record for fastest train speed in the US was achieved by mounting two jet engines from a B-36 bomber to a diesel railcar (via @AlecStapp)
“If we solve immortality by, say, 2050, then nearly all of us, anyone still alive by then, are effectively children. We might live 1000 years. Meet our great^20 grandchildren. Journey to the stars.” (@CJHandmer)
When you scan through a newspaper or magazine, all the human interest stuff is the same old he-said-she-said, the politics and economics the same sorry cyclic dramas, the fashions a pathetic illusion of newness, and even the technology is predictable if you know the science.
Human nature doesn’t change much; science does, and the change accrues, altering the world irreversibly.
The United States Department of Agriculture tried this when it was about to issue a rule regarding the minimum peanut content in peanut butter. Advocates wanted it to be at least 90 percent peanuts, manufacturers wanted to require only 87 percent peanuts, and adjudicating that 3 percent difference under the formal rulemaking process took the Food and Drug Administration twelve years of the 1960s and 1970s. The case went almost all the way to the Supreme Court, and the oral hearing alone took twenty weeks and produced a 7736-page transcript. (The advocates ultimately prevailed.) Since then, when Congress writes laws, it usually avoids the words “on the record” when it comes to rulemaking, leaving agencies the option to choose the informal “notice and comment” process. Unsurprisingly, it’s chosen every time. Peanut butter killed formal rulemaking.
(Although @JamesBroughel comments: “Actually, the real reason agencies don’t use formal rulemaking is a Supreme Court case called United States v. Florida East Coast Railway, where the court ruled agencies may use informal notice-and-comment rulemaking in all but a very limited set of circumstances.”)
These cases are only the beginning of what promises to become a flood of new litigation — litigation seeking judicial assistance in protecting our natural environment. Several recently enacted statutes attest to the commitment of the Government to control, at long last, the destructive engine of material “progress.”
“The leadership of Operation Warp Speed made a lot of personal sacrifices to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in record time. And they get almost no credit” (@AlecStapp):
When Slaoui had his job interview on May 11, he minced no words. “All I want to do is make a vaccine that helps our country and the world, he said. “I’m not going to be afraid to break things. I have no political ambition.” If he had to hold meetings just to placate people, he was out. And if there was any political interference, he would resign on the spot. The other five candidates all expressed doubt about having a vaccine by the end of 2020. Slaoui alone said he could do it. He got the job. He resigned from Moderna’s board and sold all his stock in the company, knowing that he was likely forfeiting a fortune. He also decided he wouldn’t take a paycheck for overseeing the project.
The original chart that inspired Steve Jobs to liken the computer to “a bicycle for the mind” (via Heike Larson):
“In late 17th century England the professional class was almost wholly literate, the latter spread of literacy was just a matter of all the other classes joining them” (@lefineder). Note in particular the growth of literacy among artisans ~1600–1700s. Part of what made the Industrial Revolution was the combination of abstract knowledge and craft skill. George Stephenson learned to read so that he could study steam engines, then invented the locomotive:
“The classic urbanist story is that cars have become safer for passengers by becoming more deadly (bigger/heavier) for pedestrians. This data cuts strongly against that story. I presume the urbanist response is mostly that sprawl/car culture have decreased pedestrian exposure?” (@atrembath)
“Serving human progress through photography.” TIME Magazine, Aug. 20, 1945 (h/t Laura London) (Threads, Twitter):
“On one hand, AI is going to be incredibly disruptive for visual artists, but on the other hand: Jean-Jacquet Rousseau” (@kendrictonn)