I was reading about things that have a significant influence on student outcomes, and I came across something rather interesting in the late Robert Slavin's blog.

While he was complaining about John Hattie's awful methodology, he off-handedly mentioned:

> If you are familiar with the What Works Clearinghouse (2007), or our own Best-Evidence Syntheses or Evidence for ESSA, you will know that individual studies, except for studies of one-to-one tutoring, almost never have effect sizes as large as +0.40, Hattie’s “hinge point.” This is because WWC, BEE, and Evidence for ESSA all very carefully screen individual studies. We require control groups, controls for pretests, minimum sample sizes and durations, and measures independent of the treatments. Hattie applies no such standards, and in fact proclaims that they are not necessary.

There's something very important in there - the value of one-on-one tutoring.

One of the interesting things about homeschooling is that it doesn't produce massively worse outcomes than traditional schooling; homeschooled students seem to come out about as well or slightly ahead of traditionally schooled students.

This seems to imply that trained teachers are almost useless, having virtually no impact at all on student performance.

However, if one-on-one tutoring has a very large effect size (greater than 0.4 standard deviations), then this might explain why these untrained teachers do so well - homeschooled students may indeed have much worse teachers, but because the advantage of having a one-on-one tutor is so large, it "cancels out".

It would be interesting to see what effect totally untrained teachers would have in the classroom, but it feels like no one is willing to run that experiment.

Expand full comment

People who think the Tetragrammaton was pronounced Yehowah rather than Yahweh: How comes it's hallelujah and Elijah rather than hallelujeho and Elijeh?

People who think the Tetragrammaton was pronounced Yahweh rather than Yehowah: How comes it's Yehoshua and Yehoḥanan rather than Yahshua and Yahḥanan?

Expand full comment


If it's cheaper to make carbohydrates from CO2 than to use photosynthesis, what does food production end up looking like?

Expand full comment

Peru's electricity is 220 volts, 60 hz, and Chile's electricity is 220 volts, 50 hz. How much of a problem does this pose to interoperability of electrical devices from one country to the other? A 10 hz difference doesn't sound like much.

Putting the political factors aside, how technically difficult would it be for one of the countries to adopt the other's electrical standard (Peru throttles down by 10 hz or Chile goes up by 10 hz)?

Expand full comment

Turns out our special young sun is calming down and fits way more socially in at home, in school and at the grandparents home by taking SSRI every morning. Before he was starting to get engry some days every 10 Minutes over minor things. He is just taking taking half of my dose (5mg, 30kg weight) of escitaliprame and we didn't get a prescription for him after half a year of talking and testing with a local state-owned hospital specialized in psychiatry of kids and teenagers. The doctors just are trying to play safe for themselves and leaning not a millimeter out of the window by conducting a 4-week long test with a given SSRI medication. They told us the rules in our country demand a year long talk and behavioural therapy as a first step and a SSRI only as the sexond, parallel step. This would mean year long stress for the sun and us parents.

So now the question for us parents is: how can we go forward an legalize his medication without getting sued by a doctor following strictly the books.

In our country there is 1 SSRI prescribable for kids from an age of 8. We heard there should exist some children's doctors doing prescribing of SSRI. But how to find, approach and talk with them?

Expand full comment

I am sure this is the right place to pose a question. If one takes the entire span of years that the universe has been around, whatever billion figure that is and were to reframe that period of time as a 24 hour day, then what would the average human lifespan correspond to as fractions of seconds?

I was musing that there might be some sort of analogy made between that and subatomic particles.

Expand full comment

I saw this question on the English Stack Exchange and find it surprising that there are no answers:


It appears that a typo has survived on one of the Hoover Dam's towers without ever being commented on (at least on the internet). Is the person who asked the question correct that this is a typo?

Expand full comment

I’m sure this isn’t an original observation, but -

lmao AI learned how to do art (clip+Some GAN, TADNE, etc) before it learned to code and learned to operate mechanical moving robots. Take that ... everyone’s guesses about that beforehand

Expand full comment

How worried should I be about possible Natural Gas shortages this winter?

My instinct is that this easily could be "as bad as COVID" in terms of life disruption.

Expand full comment

Can anyone recommend book/blogs on the Chinese economy?

I'm interested especially in the historical transition to a more open economy

Expand full comment

Too short notice for me to join in Madrid last weekend. Any plans to repeat soon?

Expand full comment

The Solution to Many Problems: One Billion Persons on Earth

[Revised & expanded September 2021]

Author: Peter Rodes Robinson

How many humans are too many?



I would love to get feedback on this article: positive, negative, picky, useful...


Expand full comment

In “things you read on the internet maybe aren’t true”, apparently the study showing that modern posture makes little protrusions on the back of your head grow more was weak -


“Nature Scientific Reports”, with the most articles of any journal, passing Plos One in the past, not exactly the highest quality standards lol. Not all nature brand journals are the same as Nature!

Yay science! Meanwhile, serious and accomplished work goes in quantum and bio and chem and materials and thousands more, but nobody cares about that (other than the entire world economy depending on it). One strange attitude I’ve seen around here and on adjacent Twitter stuff is that “university and science research is all bad and irrelevant”, and I don’t wanna sound like I’m supporting that. Lots isn’t, lots is, but do be suspicious (and if you aren’t, and don’t understand the thing more than superficially, you may not be getting anything out of the article / headline!

Expand full comment

Something just a little off the "Wither Art?" discussion....

Skull toilets!

How long until there are cheap knockoffs for the mass market?


Expand full comment

I'm blowing through several ~$10 kindle books a week. It seems silly not to sign up for kindle unlimited at $10 a month to feed my reading habit. Is there some down side. (Besides not 'owning' the books.)

Expand full comment

You sound like you have a bit too much faith in your intuition that a little bit of virus has just gotta help the immune system stay in shape. Might be good to add some more info to your mental mix.

Expand full comment

Google search results are really bothering me. Is it my imagination or have they shifted in the last year or two toward generic low-information mainstream sources?

I googled "Wind Catching Systems" and I get page after page of "Company Says Own Technology Will Be Great!". I didn't even know there *were* this many news outlets interested in bland, uncritical reporting. You'd think that someone out there would at least call a competitor or a wind energy expert.

Expand full comment

So I checked the weather for tomorrow in Zürich, and it's apparently supposed to rain quite a lot tomorrow at 17:00 onwards. Do we have a backup plan place to meet, some bar or something with outdoor seats, in case the prophesized thunderstorm does come, or do we just hang out in the grass field anyway?

Expand full comment

I thought I'd float my situation here on ACX because I figure the commenting body here includes a high proportion of level-headed, reasonably successful people, which does not describe me very well at the moment. It's a bit like the outsider exercise from The Scout Mindset, but with actual outsiders.

I am that much-derided creature of caricature, a 40-year-old NEET. Single, of course, with a nearly blank resume. I have a generalist undergraduate degree in biology from twenty years ago and some brief and equally ancient lab tech experience (flow cytometry, PCR/electrophoresis, ELISAs). I dabbled in programming long ago (hobbyist stuff in C) to no great result. I have survived so far through extreme frugality, odd jobs, a lot of family assistance. I've never been on the (Canadian) dole.

Among my few advantages I count decent health and strength, fair (if not world-beating) intelligence, and relative freedom to move anywhere if needed. I'm not afraid or ashamed of manual labour, but obviously time will not be not my friend on this front for very long.

I would like to get out of my current pattern and do something useful and rewarding with my remaining years. However, if the sober assessment is that I'm through at this point, it would be useful to hear that, too.

Where would you start if you were me? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Expand full comment

A memetic hazard.

This is a paper-and-pencil game with so much depth of strategy and intensity of betrayal that it could have taken down a gaming company. The owner had no idea of what he invented until 17 employees started playing it, and...

He's come to the conclusion that he needs to think about leaving people feeling good as well as getting them engaged. The inventor of Neptune's Pride (a game with some of the same characteristics, but apparently not quite the same purity of effect) says he has trouble marketing it because no one wants to play it twice, but he doesn't have qualms.

I was wanting to post this, but hesitant because this is scary but fascinating. Then I concluded that the maker thought is was safe enough to post about the game and its results, and I didn't need to be more protective than that.

Text: https://www.engadget.com/2013-04-01-tank-tactics-the-prototype-that-almost-ruined-halfbrick.html

15 minute version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOYbR-Q_4Hs

1 hour version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9WMNuyjm4w

Expand full comment

I'm finishing an experiment on the value of code prototyping this week.

Would love any research about the value or lackthereof of prototyping.

The experiment was to do the first 50 problems in project euler, randomly starting in either a dynamically typed language, Python, or a statically typed language, Rust; finding a solution, then translating that solution to the other language, and determining whether the starting language affected time to develop a solution.

Expand full comment

Let's say we figure out artificial wombs and cloning without health issues for people. Do you think a lot of people will opt to clone themselves in addition to or instead of having regular children from sexual reproduction, and then raise their clone as their child or children?

Expand full comment

Sharing this info about covid booster shots, written by a friend elsewhere - she "follows several epidemiologists pretty religiously". Interesting that she cites a source that is also on substack.

* Moderna is in its own booster approval process and that is taking longer. Johnson & Johnson is also working on a booster and is also slower in process.

* A big hypothesis about maybe why Moderna is slightly more effective is that the Moderna second doses were given one week longer after the first shots than the Pfizer ones. Ideally probably we would all have had even more time between doses. But the longer the wait, the harder to get people to come back for dose 2 at all. And the intervals used were the ones that had been used in the clinical trials, so it was the best info we had at the time.

* There have been some studies about mixing and matching vaccine brands and types, and it is definitely possible that there could be advantages, but we aren’t likely to have enough data and have it vetted enough soon enough for that to be relevant for people seeking a booster in the next few months. One of the really promising things is the mixing of one dose each between the adenovirus vector vaccines (J&J, AstraZeneca) and the mRNA ones (Pfizer, Moderna). But that has so far not been studied nearly enough yet for the FDA and CDC to consider it for recommendation. I think there’s some data from Canada and the UK on AZ/Pfizer mix and match, but we don’t have AZ here at all.

* Some people have gone and done mix and match on their own recognizance, and generally had to be willing to lie to vaccine distributors in order to do it, but there haven’t been reports of awful things happening. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense that there might be any really big safety risks, but there is just not enough data to be sure. So nobody is actively recommending going rogue and mixing and matching, but if they were, it would likely be mixing types.

* Even though there’s enough people booster data for Pfizer that this was approved, there was a lot of debate. People who got Moderna or J&J don’t need to be freaking out that their vaccines are going to stop working and regret not getting Pfizer. Boosters will come for those too, and in the meantime, most of us are just hitting the very earliest part of the window in which immunity might start to fade a little.

* A lot of the pro booster data shows that the ideal window for boosters is 6-8 months after your second shot, at least for Pfizer. I know I literally just hit my 6 month mark a couple days ago. I plan to wait another several weeks at least before getting a booster (as a younger but multiply co-morbiditied person). This is the similar logic to why it’s possible the second Pfizer shot was a little early compared to Moderna and might account for the slightly different effectiveness.

* Hope that’s helpful. The single best comprehensive source I rely on is Your Local Epidemiologist, https://yourlocalepidemiologist.substack.com/ (and on Facebook, and she has a near-daily email newsletter). She has a whole chart tracking things about each vaccine and where it is in terms of research on effectiveness, boosters, etc.

Expand full comment

If the Flat Earth conspiracy theory was true, what's the minimum number of people who would have to be in on it? I.e., how many people's jobs depend on knowing the shape of the earth?

Expand full comment

This seems like as good a place as any to discuss the new Apple TV series Foundation.

I've been wanting to see a Foundation adaptation for years. I never bought the idea that it was "unfilmable", as long as you're willing to embrace the idea that you're basically doing an anthology series. Asimov's books provide a bare bones outline of a plot and characters, which the writers are free to flesh out and adapt however they see fit. In the right hands, it could be really good, a sweeping TV epic unlike anything that has been done before.

Unfortunately, while I've only watched the first episode of the TV series it seems to fall flat. The first problem is the characters; rather than fleshing out Asimov's characters (who are really just cardboard cutouts who travel the galaxy explaining the plot to each other) it seems like the TV producers just gave the characters a variety of different races and sexes and left it at that. Somehow the character have even less to them. This one is a brilliant mathematician, this one is also a brilliant mathematician, this one is a discount bin Commodus, and the other one is nothing at all. Every scene plays out in the most obvious possible way, with characters intoning the most obvious possible things ("Mother, I'm going away, I'll miss you" "Don't go then" "No, I must!") in the least creative way.

The production design and world building is another huge missed opportunity. They could have done weird and wonderful things, the decadence of a vast, ancient, and incredibly high-tech galactic empire could be filled with all sorts of wonderful architecture, spaceships and costumes, but it all just looks like stuff we've seen before; generic spaceship, generic palace, generic city. There's no sense that there's a vast and interesting galactic empire out there, so there's no real reason to care if it falls. All we see of the Empire is the Emperor, and he's a dick.

Such a missed opportunity.

Expand full comment

I'm trying to find a comment I remember seeing on ACX a while back. It was about memory, and what we know about how it physically works.

I remember talk of experiments that narrowed it down to a specific brain region, and certain types of cells that were probably involved...it was a long post and Google isn't helping me out. Do any of you remember what I'm talking about?

Expand full comment

My wife thinks I'm good-looking. I think I'm not. Who is wrong? I'm the guy in these photos, she's the gal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/187626661@N07

Obvs plenty of room for "You're butt-ugly" comments, but y'know, I already think I am, so ... save your breath.

Bonus question for extra credit: is my wife good-looking?

Expand full comment

Looks like supply chains are buggered. How much of is is a transient adjustment and how much is here to stay. And what should we do about it?

Half baked thoughts:

Amazon might do well out of this, in a 'you don't have to outrun the bear, only the other people with you' kind of way.

I bet self driving trucks are looking a lot more attractive.

Maybe I should go into small-scale CNC or additive manufacture, to fill the hole left by shipping things from China.

Expand full comment

Meetups have been added in Bangkok (October 2nd) and Ljubljana (September 25th, aka tomorrow)! See the spreadsheet for details.

Expand full comment

This week on De Novo: is Corning going to completely mess up my research?


Expand full comment

Sorry, I have a COVID question. I hear a lot of vaccinated people adamantly proclaiming that they "won't hang out with an unvaccinated person," cancelling plans when they find out someone in the group is unvaccinated, etc. Is there any personal or public health rationale for this, or is it just moralizing? FWIW I am vaccinated.

Expand full comment

This seems like an interesting community from which to seek advice. So here I am, asking for it.

I'm almost 40. I'm a software engineer with a very mixed outlook on my career. I taught myself to program as a young teen making games on the TI-83 calculator. I pursued physics in college, doing undergraduate level research in computational quantum physics. I felt like I had an epiphany that I didn't want to work on fundamental science, but something that impacted people more directly and more quickly. I thought about law and achieved a 99th percentile score on the LSAT, but never pursued it. I ended up getting a job in software because it was a skillset I had.

I spent my 20s half unemployed, reading philosophy and comic books and writing some small video games and some small short fiction. I only worked when I had to, and I never really loved it. Web applications were fun for a while, but they became boring quickly. I had children and got married, and focused on making sure I had health insurance. I learned mobile development and worked in iOS for a while. I did some small stints in management. It's always been a bit lackluster and halfhearted, although I'm fairly good at it, and at faking the enthusiasm, so it comes as a surprise to people when I express deep ennui and existential anxiety.

I've been diagnosed with major recurrent depressive disorder and dysthymia; "double dip depression." I tested borderline adult ADHD, but didn't quite meet the diagnostic threshold. I've been in therapy for 1.5 years cumulatively and was on SSRIs for 6 years. My childhood was loving but involved charity, food stamps, and the health department.

I've experimented with psilocybin and LSD about a dozen times. I've had passing but now decades-long recurring dilettante-level interests and practices with western ritual magick, aikido, tai chi, tarot, Buddhism, Taoism, and philosophy. I have some nascent belief that enlightenment is the birthright of all conscious beings, and that it's what I want my life to be about. I've also had recurring fantasies of supporting myself as a lifestyle-level tech entrepreneur, a comic book writer, a fiction author, or a philosopher.

I went off of SSRIs 15 months ago; my wife left me 12 months ago. We now split custody and I now have a lot more free time than I used to. I don't have many friends in general, and almost none in the small town where I live.

I spend my days working 8 hours — or rather, working for a few and staring at the screen wishing I was doing anything else for the rest — and often becoming severely anxious and depressed about it. I work out more and eat better, and that's helped with depression significantly.

I don't like programming for others as a career. I want my life to be about a personal relationship with God. I have school aged children, and a mortgage for a house they enjoy living in. I don't know how to support a life without just doing this career that I've generally struggled with for 20 years.

And part of me knows that is a misplaced anxiety, that it's something else instead. The obvious culprit is mental health. The desires to live off of entrepreneurship, writing, or another form of art seem like standard pipe dreams that I didn't grow out of in my 20s. Having my marriage fall apart recently, it's in some ways understandable that I'd go back to the mentality I had before that relationship.

But there's some truth to what I want, too. I want a life about my personal relationship with God. I want enough material success to live healthily, but not by sacrificing so much time in an arena that so drains me mentally. I want to create things that are more meaningful and healthy and bring joy to others. And I'm smart and capable, even if I lack in discipline and focus.

What would you advise me?

Expand full comment

What? Where? When?

Russians among us probably remember the popular game show-turned-team game "Chto? Gde? Kogda?".

The best description I can come up with is that it's a game of competitive brainstorming - teams are given one minute to figure out a question that often relies both on trivia knowledge and figuring out a logic puzzle - kinda like the logic crossword in the Guardian.

It started as a Russian TV game show (afaik) and then spun off into dozens of leagues of Russians across the world. I really enjoyed, as a teen, playing both in the youth league organized by my school (where I was captain of our team "Two by Two") and the "adults" Tel Aviv league (where I would join one of a few teams).

What always bugged me while I was playing was that there is no reason it would be limited to Russian - except that Russians are already familiar with it and for others there's a cultural barrier. But it's a barrier worth overcoming because I think the game can be enjoyed by many people.

I also tried to look recently at whether there's an active league near me and could only find a website with a last post in 2013. The Tel Aviv league is still active though, but I fear the global phenomenon may be dying.

- Does anyone know of active ChGK leagues in the US, and specifically in the Boston area?

- Is there something similar to this game in other languages?

- Does anyone know of ongoing efforts to revive the game, in Russian or in other languages?

- Any thoughts on chances/worthwhileness/barriers to reviving it in English? I have some access to a large amount of young nerds (being at MIT) but also I suck at social organizing.

Expand full comment

Anyone have a book recommendation for naval history? Ideally something fairly high-level and broad, rather than, e.g. getting bogged down in the specifics of individual battles and battleships.

I've started watching some videos on the Drachinifel YouTube channel, and find the high-level interesting, but as for the point-by-point description of how many tonnage of displacement X ship had and how many 13 inch primary guns it carried, less so.

Expand full comment

Here's my idea for an ideal city street: Both sides of the street should be lined with three-story townhouses. Each townhouse's first floor is a shopfront that is zoned for retail only, and the second and third floors are zoned residential. A townhouse can't be subdivided, meaning a townhouse's owner owns all three stories. Additionally, there is a covenant that says each owner must use the townhouse as his primary residence.

By forcing owners to live in their own townhouses (or to at least spend most of the year there), they have direct stakes in ensuring the quality of life of the neighborhood is good. Also, since they own the first floor retail spaces, they have control over what types of businesses can be there. There's also wouldn't be any wonky banking influences over how much rent an owner would charge, meaning owners could raise or lower rents at will.

Note that an owner could rent out some of the rooms in the upper two floors of his townhouse to other people if he wanted, allowing flexibility over the neighborhood's population density.

What could go wrong?

Expand full comment

Those who signed up for the Rationalist matchmaker, how did it go? Did anything come of it?

Expand full comment

I have a bunch of questions about clinical trials. Like: how do I go about entering one? How do I track which ones are available, other than checking clinicaltrials.gov every day? How do clinical trials get their participants, especially if they target a sample of people who started exhibiting symptom x less than 72 hours ago?

Context: I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss on my right ear 8 years ago and lost about 80% of my hearing, which didn't critically impact my functioning as I had good hearing on my left, but as of three weeks ago the same thing happened to my left, taking about 40% of my good hearing. In both cases no one has any clue what could have caused it and there is no effective treatment available.

However, there is a drug called FX-322 currently in phase 2 clinical trials that appears to be effective at inducing hair cell regeneration in the cochlea, significantly mitigating extended high range hearing loss. As I understand it, pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on getting new drugs through clinical trials and so lock them down under patent. This process can take a decade or more before the drug actually comes to market. As a result, my only hope of getting this treatment is by entering a clinical trial that tests it, because the pharmaceutical company will not sell it to anyone and no doctor will give it to anyone, for fear of getting sued in both cases. Hence my question.

Expand full comment

An interesting meditation I wound up developing (as far as I can tell):

To Die Before You Die


Expand full comment

I want to once again promote the meetup in Ljubljana, Slovenia, happening tomorrow: https://www.lesswrong.com/events/G5gufXwuHhJuoDoLi/ljubljana-acx-meetups-everywhere-2021

The weather is going to be so surprisingly nice that some people cancelled on coming to the meetup, but if you don't have better plans, consider coming :)

Expand full comment

What’s the state of the art in IQ testing these days?

The last time I checked (fair disclosure - decades ago) it was a multiple choice pen and paper test that produced a single number that was supposed to represent an individuals intelligence.

Is this still the case?

Expand full comment

I offer you a deal. I take you to an isolated cabin with no technology and give you a stack of white paper. I will give you a week to write whatever you want on the paper but it has to be completely from your memory with no help from anyone else. Whatever you write down on that paper, you will never forget again.

1. What would you write?

2. How much would you pay for this opportunity?

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment