Friday links: financial engineering vs. lynx, debating de-extinction, and more

Also this week: a thing that does not appear to be Trump’s fault, statistics vs. menstrual cycle synchronization, journal EiC caught on camera trap, Canadians vs. snow, and more.

From Jeremy:

Here at my uni we’re celebrating Darwin Day today. In honor of the day, here are some charming anecdotes from a visit to Darwin’s village in 1909.

Debating de-extinction. (ht @noahpinion)

Remember Martha McClintock’s famous result that women’s menstrual synchronize when they live in close proximity? It doesn’t hold up, due to an inappropriate statistical null model (aside: unlike the linked piece, I wouldn’t characterize the problem as “pseudoreplication”). Will need to add this to my list of statistical vignettes. Good example of how tricky it can be to define an appropriate null model. (ht @noahpinion)

I dunno, this looks like a data journalism fail to me. It looks to me like the percentages of Americans who believe in, and worry about, climate change have been trending upwards for several years, with no discernible change in the trend associated with Trump’s election. But what do you think?

I’m only linking to this because it got me wondering: are there any circumstances in which the evolutionary equivalent of Uber (i.e. a company that’s losing money to try to grow rapidly, so that it can eventually become a money-making monopoly) would be favored by selection? I know that there are circumstances that select for rapid-but-inefficient growth in bacteria. But are there circumstances that would select for rapid growth because the long-term reward is an eventual uninvadable equilibrium (the equivalent of an economic monopoly)? It’s tempting to say no, obviously not, because evolution by natural selection doesn’t have foresight. But could you get something like the same effect in a system in which the eventual competitive dominant will be determined by a priority effect? Or maybe in a system in which some or all of the competitors receive an exogenous subsidy? Surely some theoretician must’ve looked into this, but casual googling doesn’t turn anything up. Perhaps the force google is weak with me…

Restoring a species to a country it used to inhabit isn’t just a matter of ecology. It’s also a matter of using creative financial engineering to find win-win solutions for all stakeholders. Ok, this is a very minor story about something that (if I understand correctly) has merely been proposed rather than actually happened. But still, I found it interesting. Note that I don’t have any strongly-held opinions about it, as I don’t have enough relevant background knowledge. (ht Matt Levine)

Against using trolley problems to teach ethics in philosophy classes. Semi-related. Also semi-related. (ht Matt Levine)

We now go live to video of Am Nat EiC Dan Bolnick dealing efficiently with a burst of new submissions to the journal. “The results were made easily digestible by the clear crisp prose…and my large canines.” πŸ™‚


How users of different stats packages see each other. πŸ™‚

Canadian road rage. πŸ™‚

10 thoughts on “Friday links: financial engineering vs. lynx, debating de-extinction, and more

  1. Like your uber effect concept Jeremy. I’d rather chose a company that I like better to name it after. I’m also happy with the “Fox effect”. The logic is there (I think), so one could build a model that would show it at work; e.g. an ibm in a spatial landscape would do it. I’m not sure how to do it otherwise, but I am sure there must be ways. (The concept does seem to overlap with masting to me somehow). Like you, I’m curious if the exercise has been done.

    • You are not allowed to call it the Fox effect! Not least because people might think it was referring to the tv/film conglomerate and get very confused.

      And call me old-fashioned, but I think a thing should be shown to exist before it gets a name.

      And if it has been already demonstrated by a theoretician, said theoretician is going to be pretty annoyed if the effect ends up getting named after some random blogger!

      But you have raised the question of what effect *should* be called the Fox effect. I look forward to finding out which of our commenters is quickest on the draw at using this opening to make fun of me. πŸ™‚

  2. The ecological equivalent of Uber would be to take a few trillion bacteria and throw them on a lifeless planet, perhaps with a few generations supply of food.

  3. thinking about the uber analogy a little more, it seems like looking at Uber from a resource perspective is good but may not even be the primary reason for uber’s “success”.

    Seems like Uber’s “success” mainly results from being given a pass on the laws governing the transportation ecosystem – laws that it’s competitors were forced to obey (minimum wage, driver licensing, vehicle inspections, business insurance). Had these rules been enforced immediately as they should have been the entire ride-share business might not have got off the ground at all.

    Imagine if antelope were excused from gravity.

    But I don’t think Uber or any internet companies set out to establish a monopoly by running competitors out of business. Uber sells is the exact same product as Lyft, or Dreyeve, or Komute or Tranzip or 2ride or any other group of four people who want to make an app and think up a name with a corky spelling – not to mention the many other alternatives.

    • “But I don’t think Uber or any internet companies set out to establish a monopoly by running competitors out of business.”

      Obviously I only know what I read in the news. But as far as I can tell they set out to establish a monopoly, but are unlikely to be able to do so for the reason you give.

      • Yeah, I dont know for sure, I dont have inside knowledge, probably some do start out thinking that way.

        I’ve worked though in several junior mining startups. The goal there is to find any flavor of sunshine that will get someone with money excited, and always have another flavor on hand when the first one turns sour. At first, and often for long time, its just about living to fight another day. It really is that way for lots of small tech firms too.

  4. I was wondering something about the mouse/snake flick. It’s kind of interesting that the mouse freezes for instant before the snake strikes. Is that just coincidence – normal between hop behavior – or does it freeze bcz of snake, that is, wait for the snake to commit before taking evasive measures?

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