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A summary: Gaza strip news, "An Inconvenient Truth", octopus brains, aquatic ape-bashing, libertarian paternalism. 

I've been following the news from Israel/Palestine the last few days, namely Israel responding, to a soldier being taken prisoner by militants, by destroying the generator which powered half of the Gaza strip, with water-pumping  and grain-grinding for half a million people now being at risk.  Been following it with growing outrage.

Some of us saw Al Gore's global warming movie today.  Well done as a film, I thought, and good science.  And scary, I hadn't realized the CO2 concentrations had shot up higher than prior interglacials.  He's got a site.

Pharyngula had an entry on octopus brains and I read through various links from there.  Their neurons are still invertebrate-like, so rather different from ours at low levels -- they're different electrical objects.  But the connectivity in their nervous systems is fairly similar to ours, especially in areas implicated in learning, suggesting convergent evolution in those functions.

From the Majikthise blog I got a link battering the aquatic ape hypothesis, which I'd been sympathetic to in the past.  No longer.

And finally, a paper on libertarian paternalism: guiding people's choices while preserving their ultimate freedom to choose.  They argue that much of the time, influencing people's choices is simply unavoidable: people go with defaults, or value things based on anchoring effects, or don't have well-defined well-ordered preferences.  Letting people opt-out of retirement savings rather than having to opt-in raises enrollment rates a lot; there's also libertarian benevolence, where various countries presume organ donation unless that is explicitly blocked, vs. the US assumption of no donation unless explicitly chosen.  A good paper.  Longish, at 44 pages, but just reading the first 5 or 10 pages will give an idea of what they're talking about.


Damien Sullivan

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May 2018


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