Friday assorted links


#2 - the US Patent Office considers, sadly, that formulas are "discovered" rather than "invented" and refuses to patent them, per se. If patents were allowed on math formulas probably all of the modern puzzles in math would have been solved already. Since the Library of Congress is archiving these comments, future generations will wonder why everybody was so clueless today about this topic. As well as why Brazil was so underrated...

>If patents were allowed on math formulas probably all of the modern puzzles in math would have been solved already.

Sounds absurd to me on many levels. First, a proof of the Riemann hypothesis has no practical value, and hence a patent on the proof of the Riemann hypothesis, would have no value either . Whatever sort of product, service, or other thing of value that could be built with a proven Riemann hypothesis can be built today without the need for a proof.

There is already quite an incentive to individual mathematicians to solve to the classic unsolved problems in math.

Software patents are an absolute nightmare and patents on mathematical formulas would be even worse. Software patents seem to inhibit innovation more than they foster it. It is nearly impossible to judge the validity of a software patent or if a piece of software infringes.

And conversely, you already can patent mathematical formulas by simply phrasing the formula as a piece of software. So if you want mathematical patents, you already have them. See for example crypto, compression and graphics software patents.

To add to your comment Gil, the article talks about a $1million prize for solving the Reimann hypothesis, so there is already a substantial monetary incentive for solving it.

My view is that patent's are over-valued, most inventions are made because the inventor had a problem they needed to solve and then realised afterwards that it could be patented. So the patent comes after the invention and is not generally the driver.

I think a good case can be made for abolishing IP and returning it to the domain of contracts and fraud. It's just artificial scarcity.

An then, most of the inventors would have just moved on to a more productive pursuit.

The big value of IP is that it makes it much easier to sell the invention/book/musical work.

The big value of the patent system is that it forces people to disclose inventions for patent protection, allowing others to learn from it and build derivative inventions. Without patents, the only protection for intellectual property would be secrecy. Everything would be a trade secret, and we'd waste a lot of time inventing things that have already been invented, and lose the ability to invent new things on the backs of other inventions.

I also imagine that many things would never even be researched if it was easy to determine how it was done. For example, no one would invest in pharmaceutical research, because the process of profiting from your IP would necessarily expose it to people who could easily reverse engineer it and then take your market away because they would have no R&D costs to amortize.

@Gil, CA, OC, G: Wrong on all counts. You confuse the present patent system, which rewards solely 'useful' inventions, with my hypothetical patent system where the inventor would get an AlexT "prize" from the government for doing something cool. Second, you do realize that today almost 99% (based on my experience) inventors assign over all inventions to their employer? So they effectively get nothing an incentive, to invent is "part of their job". Nobelist Cary Mullis got $10k for his pioneer "PCR" test tube DNA replication method (which was challenged in court by Dupont, since it was 'close' to prior art techniques in the same way the laser is 'close' to the maser). Mullis was the first inventor so honored at Cetus, which later sold (at a fire sale, read the excellent book that's on TC's 'to read' list, "Making PCR" by Rabinow) for $630M (and typically, an academic paper once found, a pioneer patented invention is only sold by the assignee (inventors employer) for less than 5% of its true value). Mullis himself wanted to keep PCR a trade secret, probably correctly concluded he'll get nothing for it (he later said he made more money as an expert witness--I think his fees were several hundred thousand dollars--in the patent litigation than from inventing PCR). Who profits from today's patent system? The patent assignees (owners), a bit, and the middlemen (patent lawyers and patent agents).

Finally, look at you, all of you. Would you dare become an inventor rather than a gate keeper, rentier, middleman, dissemble-er, or b.s. artist (pick the one that you are)? I rather beat my kids than have them go down that route, unless they crave fame. The Field medal is just a glorified pat on the back. And if you read Rabinow, you'll find out a lot of inventors wish they had more money. No, they all just don't invent for the sake of inventing, a common 'nerds invent for the love of it' theme.

Maybe you don't realize this, but an engineer's job is to design technology. Sometimes that involves coming up with a new design. So inventing is indeed part of their job and happens routinely. Employers who want more of this offer incentives. If the inventors want to capture more of the value, they can start their own businesses.

Surely this is a fake Ray.

Discarding patent at invention (and all license of use!) for a prize later, if you are lucky?

After years of defending actual patents and license, the real Ray isn't going to this.

Patent is created to incentivize dead inventor.

" If patents were allowed on math formulas probably all of the modern puzzles in math would have been solved already. "
I'm not knocking this idea but what evidence do you have for this? We have patents on pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical devices but we haven't cured cancer or heart attacks.

@The Skeptic - yes we have, just look at life expectancy for both cancer and heart attacks, all up, all on patented tech.

@Anonymous -- I'm staying a AlexT prize for pure math formulae (having no practical application) is called for. Call it a patent if you like.

Ray did you pick up syphilis from your half-age girlfriend? I'm beginning to think late stage dementia for writing up that stinker. Not your best work. Auribus teneo lupum.

#4 This kind of stuff drives me nuts. It's like we are looking for this kind of controversy everywhere. How do we even control for this? I've worked in a variety of offices that had very different temperature settings. Every conference room has a different setting! Not to mention that yes, you are allowed to wear warmer clothes!!! For crying out loud, we have way too much time in our hands...

Clothing may be part of it. Women's formal and office casual clothing tends to be of lighter fabric and leaves more flesh undercovered. Likewise in warm temperatures women can dress in skimpier clothes than guys can.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.


Plus women are generally smaller, which means more surface area per unit volume, which means they lose heat quicker. So this result maybe that we are just equalising heat loss for men and women. I can imagine that the brain has to compete for energy with other parts of the body, so having this result makes sense at that level.

I think heat loss is just a function of surface area, not SA to volume.

The volume is generating heat, isn't it?

A 125 lb woman needs to consume about 2000 calories per day. A 175 lb man needs to consume about 2800. That extra 800 calories in heat has to be dissipated, and yet the surface area of 175 lb men vs 125 lb women does not vary by that amount. So it makes total sense that men like it slightly cooler than women.

Also, the basic dress for men in an office is long paints and a button-up shirt. For women, it's often a skirt and a blouse. Men wear socks and heavy shoes, and women wear thin stockings and open shoes.

The real shock would be that with all these differences, men and women should want the same room temperature.

In addition to SA/V concerns you also have a few other factors:
Men have greater muscle mass which typically means more mitochondria and more heat generation even at basal levels. This is mostly balanced by more heat radiation by men (e.g. through their pores), but in colder room men will lose temperature less quickly.

At a molecular level, male cells may also show more heat output (e.g. male murine hepatic cells churn about 10% more than female murine hepatic cells). Even among individuals with the same dimensions, males are likely generating (and shedding) more heat.

Then you have the thermoregulation differences. Males typically are a small, but significant fraction of a degree cooler than women for core body temperature. More importantly, women show greater variation between core and surface temperatures. When exposed to cold, female humans typically conserve more core heat (and let the skin cool faster) while males sacrifice core heat (and slow skin cooling).

There are many other biologic differences between males and females that contribute to temperature differences., Some appear to be driven by X genes directly while others are due to male gonad driven fetal maturation and then there are ones when seem hormone linked.

It has long been known that optimal female temperature preference is higher than male. This study really only shows (at best) that uncomfortable testing conditions decrease test performance if one accepts the large body of scientific evidence regarding sex differences in temperature preference and mechanics.

Manufacturers of camping equipment have been aware of this for years, and make sleeping bags and sleeping pads for women that are warmer/thicker -- and thus would be heavier, but the women's models are also shorter so they end up being the same weight. But warmer and shorter, to meet women's preferences.

Thanks Sure - as ever there is always more to know about a subject. I guess I always knew about women always wanting to have it warmer than men, but there seems to be quite a lot of science behind that preference.

I'm fat, and I like cool offices, bedrooms, etc. Actually, I like really cold bedrooms.

My impression is that American men and women are fat, but that women are fatter. Does that equalize things a bit?

I worked for a tech company. I knew the person (a woman!) who was asked to reprogram the A/C. She said she did her best, but with two temperature sensors per floor, there wasn't much she could do.

Probably not atypical. Builders can skimp on that kind of thing.

4 Two stories.

I did work in an RCMP building a few years ago on their cooling systems. Invariably when I showed up I would be accosted by large men packing heat whispering that I should turn the temperature down. A tiny woman would use her gender related superior hearing capabilities and stride into the hallway ordering me not to touch it while these fearless defenders of our freedom would scatter like bugs. She ran the office, signed their pay stubs and had the temperature set to what she wanted; warmer.

A second one. There was a complaint that an office was cold. I found the office manager to figure what was happening. The complainant arrived, the office manager (female) looked her up and down and suggested she wear more clothes. Or some clothes. It was a while ago.

Maybe feminism arose in response to the energy crisis in the 70's where buildings were run cooler in the winter to save energy.

I don't need to reference a particular post because they are all the same: behavior. I suppose pharmaceutical companies could create a drug that would induce consumption, or savings, or investment, or what the economists' prescription for what ails the economy. In the meantime, we must rely on manipulation of behavior, behavior being predictable and easily manipulated. Sumner had a blog post recently imploring the Fed to really, really cut interest rates because doing so would result in an increase in long term rates. What? One will recall John Cochrane's advice during the depths of the great recession: raising interest rates is expansionary. Thus, he suggested that the Fed raise interest rates. He was ridiculed for the suggestion. Well, why would really, really cutting interest rates produce an increase in long term rates? The same, simple minded behavior. Both Cochrane's suggestion and Sumner's suggestion rely on human behavior, not economic theory (to the extent economic theory relies on, you know, economics rather than human behavior and psychology). Why prescribe drugs to alter human behavior, drugs that have bad side effects, when the same thing can be accomplished through simple manipulation of behavior. We are all behaviorists, now. Well, not now, but one day.

3. I understand that Everest was first a remote, near mythical, adventure. I can understand how the generation after that could pursue it based on that earlier image. I don't get what's happening now. Climbing Everest is hard, but it's also a packaged operation. Dangerous Disneyland.

Why the heck don't more people be like this guy:

contrasting photo

Surely climbing an unnamed and previously unclimbed mountain in Bhutan is cooler at this point. Even just remote and rarely climbed.

Climbing Everest is still not really "cheap" like say a Carribbean vacation. You still need to have some means to pay for it, the people who could afford it tend to be lawyers, bankers, doctors, etc. These kind of people tend not to actually be very adventurous or imaginative.

They got to where they are today by following a well-worn path and that is how they live their lives.

According to Wikipedia, some of the dead include a Google executive, a former CEO of Intrade, a Nepalese politican, and a number of entrepreneurs (Japan, Canada, etc.). The most common profession was mountaineer for obvious reasons.


People should just do what Kilian Jornet does: Pack your backpack in the morning and go running on the mountain peaks in your backyard; post photos and GoPro footage to your Instagram account as you go. Total freedom with none of the prepackaged B.S.

Some people honestly don't want the accomplishment. What they want is the trappings of the accomplishment. They want to be able to say they climbed Everest because of what saying that means, despite what climbing Everest actually is. It's the same reason people would rather post a 6-hour finish at the Boston Marathon than post a 3-hour finish at the Topeka Marathon or whatever.

Or, god forbid, just go out and run 26 miles by yourself to see if you can do it.

Nope, it's gotta be observed and approved and liked and shared.

Kilian Jornet is great, and if YouTube helps pay for the lifestyle, more power to him.

Mt Everest: mimetic, easy
other mountains: not mimetic, hard

dunno seems clear to me

#1 There are many drug conferences, but few as 'woke' as the APA!

#3 I can't remember the documentary (it was about mountaineering in Tierra Del Fuego), but one gentleman decried the large numbers of yuppie doctors, lawyers, and businessmen who get into mountaineering as some kind of capstone on their lives. In his words, "They were assholes when they went up the mountain, and they're assholes when they come down."

It's official. It's a 'tattoo'. Congrats guys, your non-conformist in the most conformist way (for your wealth-bracket) possible! Death Zone? What Death Zone!!!

#4 Testosterone is awesome.

I remember reading that article, too. Probably something out of Outside Magazine, ironically enough.

#3 - the source story includes what I call the Steve Irwin (RIP) Phenomenon as well. Apparently two people in their 50's collapsed and died while waiting in that line.

Most people can't plop down the $30,000(?) to fund an Everest expedition until they hit their 50s. But alas, the oxygen deprivation you could shrug off in your 30s is fatal in your 50s, just like Steve Irwin had the reaction time of a man in his 40s when he swam next to a stingray just like he did in his 20s. In your head, you're still an indestructible 20 or 30-something.

Still better than dying in a nursing home but yes, it's still following convention.

Nothing wrong with dying in a nursing home. I’d like to die in one aged ~103 years, after a long and happy life.

Nothing wrong with dying in a nursing home. I’d like to die in one aged ~103, after a long a happy life.

I'm in one now! My wife brings her Mexican boyfriend by every Sunday!

This is what's cool at this stage: Rising from bed and finding the "plumbing" works.

I guess if #3 is Peak peak, then the news in the same month of plastic bags and candy wrappers in the Marianas Trench is Peak trough.

Good one!

I'd not have been so glib if I'd realized the picture was circulating only because people had died in the queue. I would think that would have a profound effect on everyone there - that it would lead to panic. But maybe at that point you're numb to all but your own discomfort and exhaustion.

I know they paid a lot of money to get into that position, and maybe a lot of them wouldn't have been there without those services, the fixed ropes and so on - but they're still a far different breed to hobbits like me.

I would not have said the takeaway should be "Everest is easy."

I actually think most of them are pretty callous.

For years there was a body in a narrow spot, and everyone just stepped over and continued.

I wonder if they perform psychological profiles on the climbers. One bad egg could cause a good amount of deaths.

#5: I'm not sure what the worry is. First, no scientific experiment goes off as planned (an exaggeration, but not much of one). The real world is messy, with innumerable confounding factors. When dealing with humans that number is several orders of magnitude higher, because of volition. Changes to experimental protocols are inevitable as new data arises, and are often done on the fly because otherwise the experiment fails. In geology we have "field calls", where the guy in the field says "Nope, I'm not going to drill through that high-pressure liquid oxygen line" and moves the sample point (yes, that happened to me once). Minor stuff, not likely to affect the outcome.

Even for the more major stuff, which may affect the outcome, preregistration has a built-in mechanism for correcting (or at least catching) these issues: Preregistration. You compare what the folks said they'd do against what they did, and determine if it's a significant deviation or not. If it is, you consider the study invalid and move on. Once people have their studies critiqued enough they'll catch on (or their students will).

Fundamentally, though, no amount of preregistration is going to help overcome the foundational problem in scientific publication: The pervasive idea that publishing a paper means it's true. It doesn't. Peer review is only a stop-gap to ensure egregious errors usually don't get published. It's up to individual researchers to examine each paper published and make their own judgement calls on it. Sometimes the research is crap. Sometimes it seems good, but turns out to be crap later (often after the author dies). Sometimes parts of it are crap but parts are good, even extremely good--there's no obligation to treat a research paper as a single unit, we are allowed to parse out individual aspects of it! Like peer-review, preregistration may help avoid certain egregious errors, but it's really just a way to mitigate one aspect of a more fundamental problem.

Then what is the problem of stating the deviations and, reasons for them and the justification for fair practices?

1. Many of the details are typical of large trade shows, including the city-size booths and ads plastered everywhere in the host city.

^ Exactly. This is probably not what an academic psychology conference looks like.

Why not? The Geological Society of America's annual meeting always has a large number of venders. It's part academic conference, part trade show by its nature. Why would it be surprising that other academic fields do similar?

2. I have doubts. Not really about the truth or the quality of the article but about if it can really lead to a proof of the Riemann hypothesis. For one thing, there has been so many announcements of this type leading to nothing. And second the (very good) mathematician interviewed in the article has a clear tendency to oversell his results and to be over-optimistic about his prospects. In other words, reading the link has not changed much my bayesian prior of the event : "RH will be proved in the next three years."

"Behavior change is difficult—just ask any psychologist. A new study shows behavior change among psychologists is no different. Efforts to improve the robustness of research by asking psychologists to state their methods and goals ahead of time, a process called preregistration, have stumbled at the first hurdle."

I'm not a fan of strict rules limiting science, but asking people to simply state goals and methods to be used isn't limiting anything . it is very funny.

3. humans are mimetic creatures, aren't they. If only I had been familiar with Rene Girard and his work years earlier. No, not so much for avoiding climbing Mount Everest (I'm afraid of heights), but for not avoiding investment in social media companies.

FB is up nicely, and Twitter is up a lot in the past 2 years also

Well, is Leviathan an amoral tale? Do not envy, we are told. Yet there are wildebeests. The problem with mimesis is it is unconvincing. Snow freezes, metal rusts, but light transposes. At some point, the sky is ridiculously funny, and the fact that I don't believe it so, must make syllogism, or black rain better than a white or black spot. 1 Kiss, you know, though it may have been imagined, that's what drove Pozdnyshev to kill his wife's violin player. Romeo thought he was a figment of Juliet's imagination, and she thought a lantern had turned into Romeo.
Look, the temperature is going up right, so entropy is decreasing. Sea volume is also going up, so energy is increasing. Lucien Freud thought he was an imaginary prime number. His grandfather Sigmund, posited fame is immortality. They understood that mechanical engineering like the "skeletal shrimp [is] absurd beyond belief." They understood not even the Velella Velella, the Portuguese man of war, protrandry. They were great and awesome. The link here is the trojan horse of sterile femininity was made in a kiln. It was a painting (according to Ovid).

Everest---"they need to raise the price".

So, how does this fit with anti-NIMBY'ism, open borders, anti-zoning, etc?

As Oscar Wilde observed, one ends up killing the very thing one loves the most. Open the gates to Malibu, etc. (see prior post), and eventually no one will want to live there anymore because the very thing that everyone previously aspired to would be destroyed. It is, unfortunately, inevitable that the Everest as it was will also be destroyed. At least a lot of folks will have fun doing it.

First, Cowen and Tabarrok are different guys who have slightly different opinions on these matters.

But second, I've always been of the impression that even Tabarrok's view is "anti-NIMBY, open borders, anti-zoning... but price accordingly" Let the market, rather than the regulatory apparatus, do the work.

Even allowing for different guys, I'm not so sure. Set a (strictly enforced) numerical limit on then number of legal immigrants to the US and let the bidding begin? Etc. Don't think that's their ideal program.

Seriously, what Everest actually needs is food trucks.

The average man on the cul de sac only knows the names of two or three really big hills. Climbing a mountain that's real tall and difficult but 500 feet shorter than Everest and little known just doesn't impress anyone.

#3 Better yet, a congestion tax. Incentivize everyone to climb off season and/or later in the day ;-)

It is very risky for your and your sherpas' life to climb off season or late in the day. I don't think any pecuniary incentive will change that.

#4: so society should intentionally degrade mens' productivity so that women don't need to put on a sweater.

Peak 2019, everyone

2. Progress on the Riemann hypothesis?
The idea is to estimate the number of ways a number can be constructed. When the number of ways is zero then the number is prime. But the function diverges, naturally as the number of non primes increases with N. I do not know much more.

Why do we care?
Because a lot of big data problem can be mapped into an integer space if we can prioritize the possible states of an element. Once it is mapped into integer space, then we can do combinatorials , we the distributions by direct summation, we do not need to fake some continuous function. The Riemann functions tells us a lot about combinatorials if we can proof it true. Math, right now, is making breakthrus, or more precisely, it is getting more accurate about the relationships between large data sets.

#1: not bad, but the dig at the CIA trying to look diverse is off base. If there's one organization for whom a diverse staff is a sheer necessity, it's the CIA. Imagine not having staff who can speak Arabic, or trying to infiltrate the Chinese government with nothing but white agents.

Yeah yeah they can and do go out and hire or recruit translators and agents -- and then spend the length of the contract wondering if they've hired a double agent.

#2...It's called the Riemann Hypothesis because he's the only human being who might ever be able to solve it.

That might be why females in Muslim countries which are usually closer to the equator have higher educational attainment than the males.

Nevertheless, the paper might have neglected other important variable, that of body size. There are studies that show that body size determines the amount of sweating rather than gender,

"the study concluded that the way our body responds to heat depends on morphological changes, but not on gender. The same body temperature changes occurred in all of the participants, irrespective of their sex."

Thus for men, usually with larger body sizes, tends to want to be in cooler comfort zone than women.

1. The American Psychiatry Association.

Some of these docs push a type of neurotransmitter uptake inhibitor without anyone having good mechanics or data. These class of drugs effect the base of the brain where neurons meet hormone precursors. When that zone gets depleted of natural function we get a zombie emotionally and a soon to be heart attack patient.

I am a big fan of Mt. Everest and have been following the climbing seasons the past few years. Actually many of the elite climbers are arguing for regulation on the mountain, restricting who can and cannot climb. So it is not a matter of price. There are a lot of elite companies which charge anywhere from 60k to 100K dollars to climb and also usually do a selection process of the climbers they do take on. However, in recent years there have sprung up a number of cheaper outfits who charge in the range of couple thousand dollars and basically take on anyone. Many of the deaths came from these cheaper companies with low selection criteria.

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