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Spartan Ideas is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions independently written by members of the MSU community and curated by MSU Libraries

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Natural Selection and Body Shape in Eurasia

Prior to the modern era of genomics, it was claimed (without good evidence) that divergences between isolated human populations were almost entirely due to founder effects or genetic drift, and not due to differential selection caused by disparate local conditions. There is strong evidence now against this claim. Many of the differences between modern populations …

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A Prohibition Whose Time is Now

On July 7th, the UN passed the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty. A treaty the US will not join any time soon, just as it hasn’t joined many other global agreements including: Convention on Cluster Munitions Ottawa Treaty (Mine ban) International Criminal Court Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (Signed, but withdrew in 2002) As one might expect this UN …

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Don’t Touch the Computer

Under what circumstances should humans override algorithms? From what I have read I doubt that a hybrid team of human + AlphGo would perform much better than AlphaGo itself. Perhaps worse, depending on the epistemic sophistication and self-awareness of the human. In hybrid chess it seems that the ELO score of the human partner is …

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Report: Michigan Lags in Evidence-based Policymaking

In an increasingly ideological and partisan political world, the practice of evidence-based policymaking is a critical tool in ensuring the most efficient use of government resources. Objective outcome analyses and rigorous program evaluations can help policymakers and state officials guide limited funds towards investments with a proven track record (i.e., evidence) and away from programs …

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Genetic variation in Han Chinese population

Largest component of genetic variation is a N-S cline (phenotypic N-S gradient discussed here). Variance accounted for by second (E-W) PC vector is much smaller and the Han population is fairly homogeneous in genetic terms: …while we revealed East-to-West structure among the Han Chinese, the signal is relatively weak and very little structure is discernible …

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In Other Words (Week of July 17)

Introducing our newest regular feature, In Other Words, of biweekly policy-related readings from divergent voices across Michigan. On the Left A Better Budget For All Michiganians (link is external) Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, discusses the state budget in Factually Speaking blog post. Concealed Weapons For Convicted Stalkers? ‘What Could …

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Memory Minimization

As I grow older, I’m starting to forget things (such as all the math I ever learned) … but that’s not the reason for the title of this post. A somewhat interesting question popped up on Mathematics StackExchange. It combines a basic sequencing problem (ordering the processing of computational tasks) with a single resource constraint …

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Super-human Relational Reasoning (DeepMind)

These neural nets reached super-human (better than an average human) performance on tasks requiring relational reasoning. See the short video for examples. A simple neural network module for relational reasoning https://arxiv.org/abs/1706.01427 Adam Santoro, David Raposo, David G.T. Barrett, Mateusz Malinowski, Razvan Pascanu, Peter Battaglia, Timothy Lillicrap (Submitted on 5 Jun 2017) Relational reasoning is a …

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Creating Humane Metrics for the Humanities and Social Sciences

To support the Humane Metrics for the Humanities and Social Sciences (HuMetricsHSS) initiative, Michigan State University has received a $309,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The collaborative HuMetricsHSS pilot aims to create a values-based framework that will enable humanities and social science scholars to tell more textured stories about the impact of their research …

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Independent Streams (Week of July 10)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems Michigan Schools That Sue The State Would Be Punished Under 2018 Budget (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Kristi Bowman reacts to a new school state budget provision. Has The Death Of American Manufacturing Been Exaggerated? (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Lisa Cook discusses the ongoing …

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Not Capitalism- But What Else?

What follows are excerpts from two books I’ve recently finished. The first I pulled from my own bookshelf long ago purchased at a used book sale, but never read. It was referenced in something I read earlier this year. The book was written in 1969 and I was reading it simultaneously while I was reading …

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How the brain does face recognition

  This is a beautiful result. IIUC, these neuroscientists use the terminology “face axis” instead of (machine learning terminology) variation along an eigenface vector or feature vector. Scientific American: …using a combination of brain imaging and single-neuron recording in macaques, biologist Doris Tsao and her colleagues at Caltech have finally cracked the neural code for …

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Face Recognition applied at scale in China

The Chinese government is not the only entity that has access to millions of faces + identifying information. So do Google, Facebook, Instagram, and anyone who has scraped information from similar social networks (e.g., US security services, hackers, etc.). In light of such ML capabilities it seems clear that anti-ship ballistic missiles can easily target …

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In Other Words (Week of June 26)

Introducing our newest regular feature, In Other Words, of biweekly policy-related readings from divergent voices across Michigan. On the Left Michigan Continues To Lag Behind Nationally In Outcomes For Kids (link is external) From the Michigan League for Public Policy blog Factually Speaking, Alicia Guevara Warren talks child outcomes. Why Are The Media Ignoring Stories About …

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Premature Obituaries

[T]he report of my death was an exaggeration. (Mark Twain, 1897) In a recent blog post, “Data Science Is Not Dead“, Jean-Francois Puget discussed and dissented with a post by Jeroen ter Heerdt titled “Data Science is dead.” Barring the possibility that Schroedinger shoved data science into a box and sealed it, both assertions cannot …

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Independent Streams (Week of June 19)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems The American Dream Is Fading Faster In Michigan (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Charles Ballard argues median wages should receive the same attention as unemployment rates. Civic, Business Leaders Emphasize Urban Agenda At Mackinac Policy Conference (link is external) IPPSR Affiliates Josh Sapotichne and Eric …

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#JALTCALL2017 Virtual Plenary | Design thinking: Going from practice to theory and theory to practice

It was an honor to be a virtual plenary at the JALTCALL 2017 conference last night. JALTCALL is a Special Interest Groups (SIG) of JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) for educators and researchers who share an interest in digital technology and language learning. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it in person – but we were able to coordinate …

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Comprehensive Exams, Candidacy Exams and the Job Market: More than the Life of the Mind

The article below is a re-post from the Spring 2017 American Sociological Association Sociology of Development newsletter (see the pdf here: https://sociologyofdevelopment.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/spring-2017-socdev-newsletter-4-11.pdf). The newness of the sub-field of sociology of development means it shares some things in common with an interdisciplinary field such as science and technology studies, namely, dispersed resources, disputes about the canonical …

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Scientific Consensus on Cognitive Ability?

From the web site of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR): a summary of the recent debate involving Charles Murray, Sam Harris, Richard Nisbett, Eric Turkheimer, Paige Harden, Razib Khan, Bo and Ben Winegard, Brian Boutwell, Todd Shackelford, Richard Haier, and a cast of thousands! ISIR is the main scientific society for researchers of …

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Oliver Stone confronts Idiocracy

See earlier post Trump, Putin, Stephen Cohen, Brawndo, and Electrolytes. Note to morons: Russia’s 2017 GDP is less than that of France, Brazil, Italy, Canada, and just above that of Korea and Australia. (PPP-adjusted they are still only #6 in the world, between Germany and Indonesia: s-s-scary!) Apart from their nuclear arsenal (which they will …

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Climate Risk and AI Risk for Dummies

The two figures below come from recent posts on climate change and AI. Please read them. The squiggles in the first figure illustrate uncertainty in how climate will change due to CO2 emissions. The squiggles in the second figure illustrate uncertainty in the advent of human-level AI.   Many are worried about climate change because …

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Rise of the Machines: Survey of AI Researchers

These predictions are from a recent survey of AI/ML researchers. See SSC and also here for more discussion of the results. When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts Katja Grace, John Salvatier, Allan Dafoe, Baobao Zhang, Owain Evans Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will transform modern life by reshaping transportation, health, science, …

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Independent Streams (Week of June 5)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems No Easy Answers But At Least Right Questions At Mackinac Policy Conference (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Charles Ballard reflects on themes discussed at annual Mackinac Policy Conference. How To Attack Africa’s Neonatal Mortality Problem (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Sue Grady leads study on …

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Epistemic Caution and Climate Change

I have not, until recently, invested significant time in trying to understand climate modeling. These notes are primarily for my own use, however I welcome comments from readers who have studied this issue in more depth. I take a dim view of people who express strong opinions about complex phenomena without having understood the underlying …

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Not Enough Bullets

I am struggling to remember an earlier time in my life when I felt like the world was as surreal as I find it now. We have a person in the drivers seat so self-absorb, most professional mental health experts I know concur  that he suffers from Narcissistic Behavior Disorder (NBD), based upon his public statements …

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Review of FDA Presentation on Food Fraud and Economically Motivated Adulteration – FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Dr. Stephen Ostroff

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, presented on Food Fraud at the April 4-5, 2017 Food Fraud Conference, Quebec City. FDA has been consistent in its direction and activities – all types of Food Fraud has been illegal since the adoption of the Food Drug & Cosmetics Act of 1938. …

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If This and That Then Whatever

I was asked a question that reduced to the following: if \(x\), \(y\) and \(z\) are all binary variables, how do we handle (in an integer programming model) the requirement “if \(x=1\) and \(y=1\) then \(z=1\)”? In the absence of any constraints on \(z\) when the antecedent is not true, this is very easy: add …

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Update Error: Wrong Architecture

Yesterday I ran into one of those mystifying glitches that, will infrequent, serve as a reminder that Linux is not for the faint of heart. When I booted my desktop system (Linux Mint 18.1 Serena), the system tray icon for the software updater was displaying a red “X” that indicates it tried and failed to …

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