Einstein on operationally defining and measuring simplicity


But for all that Einstein’s faith in simplicity was strong, he despaired of giving a precise, formal

characterization of how we assess the simplicity of a theory. In 1946 he wrote about the perspective

of simplicity (here termed the “inner perfection” of a theory):

This point of view, whose exact formulation meets with great difficulties, has played an

important role in the selection and evaluation of theories from time immemorial. The

problem here is not simply one of a kind of enumeration of the logically independent

premises (if anything like this were at all possible without ambiguity), but one of a kind

of reciprocal weighing of incommensurable qualities.… I shall not attempt to excuse the

lack of precision of [these] assertions … on the grounds of insufficient space at my

disposal; I must confess herewith that I cannot at this point, and perhaps not at all,

replace these hints by more precise definitions. I believe, however, that a sharper

formulation would be possible. In any case it turns out that among the “oracles” there

usually is agreement in judging the “inner perfection” of the theories and even more so

concerning the degree of “external confirmation.” (Einstein 1946, pp. 21, 23).

As in 1918, so in 1946 and beyond, Einstein continues to be impressed that the “oracles,”

presumably the leaders of the relevant scientific community, tend to agree in their judgments of

simplicity. That is why, in practice, simplicity seems to determine theory choice univocally.


I wonder if any proper empirical test has been done on judgements of simplicity in theories. I can think of a simple case. Give people a data set and various functions that is supposed to result in that data set. Let them judge the simplicity of the various functions. Repeat this exercise in different age groups, different universities, different countries, different parts of the world. If there is near-universal agreement, then there mostly likely is some human universal present.


That is, unless it has something to do with using the mathematical system that is currently popular, e.g. the decimal system. We can repeat the exericse with other systems as well, even fictional systems.


Experimental/empirical math? Who wud have known? :P


After the above has been done, and it can be done quickly, that does not settle the matter that easily. Since theories are much more complex than functions alone. But we can still expand the data set and ask people to judge various multi-variable functions. This comes closer to normal theories.


The best thing about all this, is that it can be done via the internet, thus making it a very cheap experiment to run.


I wud be surprised if we did not find very high correlations between judges’ ratings of simplicity.


Wired: Alt Text: Cleaning Up the Olympics, Genetic-Engineering Style


An interesting proposal to fix the unfair genetic advantage that some people have over other people in the olympics (or any competition at all). He proposes:

“To begin with, Olympic athletes all start out with a completely unfair advantage over those of us who will never snatch, clean or jerk at a world-class level: genetics. Just like supermodels need to be born with the genetic code for high cheekbones and UNIX sysadmins need to be born with the genetic code for answering perfectly reasonable questions in a snotty tone of voice, an Olympic back-stroker must be born of ancestors who had to escape waterborne predators while keeping an eye out for flying predators.

Why not level the genetic playing field?

Here’s the plan: We use genetic engineering to create a human being who is genetically average in every way, clone him — or her, we can flip a coin — and issue one Average Athlete Baby to each country to raise as they choose. Then, 18 years later, every country brings their Average Athlete Adult to whichever world-class city hasn’t suffered enough, and all the AAAs compete. In every event. They all must run a sprint, and a marathon, and shoot arrows and wrestle each other and do whatever “dressage” is. (I don’t know, but it sounds even kinkier than clone wrestling.)”

One problem with such a proposal: Half the world’s population will have better genes than the olympic athletes! That makes for pretty boring sport, where amateurs are better than professionals.

In general, this will clearly be a problem in the future when we start making actually good drugs and nanobots that boost performance. Then amateurs will become vastly superior to ‘undoped’ (not proven to be doping at least) professional athletes. Since that wont work, publicum wise, then sooner or later they are going to have to change their no-doping policy. It is also kind of strange, as the author notes:

“The whole concept of doping is a weird one. Taking a young girl with athletic promise, severing her from any chance of a normal childhood, shipping her off to another country, training her day and night, then subjecting her to the sort of pressure that would crush a seafloor crab into mucus and shards — that’s normal.

Topping off with a little more testosterone than your genome saw fit to give you — that’s abhorrent.”

Even just multiplying one’s own cells also is cheating. At least, if it is done in vitro.

“However, I’m not going to suggest that we just let people dope all they want, mostly because a couple hundred comedians have already trod that one into the tarmac. Instead, I have a plan to restore the Olympics to what they originally were: a chance for Greeks to run around naked. Wait, no, I’m sure the Greeks can handle that one themselves.”

He isnt? But i am! This is another case of prohibitionism.

Also, with doping free, athletes will become much better, and thus more cool to watch.

I have been studying nuclear power…

I just wanted to do a quick study using Wikipedia. Well, that didnt happen. On the other hand, now i learned alot about nuclear power. Starting with 1 tab open, i eventually had to open a metatab in Firefox. The number of tabs in this metatab rose exponentially from 1 to 38 tabs. I have sorted them below here.


Main articles






Economics and politics




This book is very often cited in various articles. It is against NP. I want to read it. So far, it was not convicing in the places it was mentioned.


Another paper by the same guy, which finds that altho NP is not CO2 free, it is much better than fossil-fuel based power. Also, this is for current reactors, not future reactors. With future reactors, some of the fossil-fuel using infrastructure can be replaced becus we can make hydrogen fuel with future reactors.



“This article screens 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions for nuclear power plants to identify a subset of the most current, original, and transparent studies. It begins by briefly detailing the separate components of the nuclear fuel cycle before explaining the methodology of the survey and exploring the variance of lifecycle estimates. It calculates that while the range of emissions for nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant, reported from qualified studies examined, is from 1.4 g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh (g CO2e/kWh) to 288 g CO2e/kWh, the mean value is 66 g CO2e/kWh. The article then explains some of the factors responsible for the disparity in lifecycle estimates, in particular identifying errors in both the lowest estimates (not comprehensive) and the highest estimates (failure to consider co-products). It should be noted that nuclear power is not directly emitting greenhouse gas emissions, but rather that lifecycle emissions occur through plant construction, operation, uranium mining and milling, and plant decommissioning.”

From the conclusion:

“The first conclusion is that the mean value of emissions over

the course of the lifetime of a nuclear reactor (reported from

qualified studies) is 66 g CO2e/kWh, due to reliance on existing

fossil-fuel infrastructure for plant construction, decommissioning,

and fuel processing along with the energy intensity of uranium

mining and enrichment. Thus, nuclear energy is in no way ‘‘carbon

free’’ or ‘‘emissions free,’’ even though it is much better (from

purely a carbon-equivalent emissions standpoint) than coal, oil,

and natural gas electricity generators, but worse than renewable

and small scale distributed generators (see Table 8). For example,

Gagnon et al. (2002) found that coal, oil, diesel, and natural gas

generators emitted between 443 and 1050 g CO2e/kWh, far more

than the 66 g CO2e/kWh attributed to the nuclear lifecycle.

However, Pehnt (2006) conducted lifecycle analyses for 15

separate distributed generation and renewable energy technolo-

gies and found that all but one, solar photovoltaics (PV), emitted

much less g CO2e/kWh than the mean reported for nuclear

plants. In an analysis using updated data on solar PV, Fthenakis

et al. (2008) found that current estimates on the greenhouse

gas emissions for typical solar PV systems range from 29 to

35 g CO2e/kWh (based on insolation of 1700 kWh/m2

/yr and aperformance ratio of 0.8).” (my bold)

Another interesting book. Freely available.



“Addressing the sustainable energy crisis in an objective manner, this enlightening book analyzes the relevant numbers and organizes a plan for change on both a personal level and an international scale—for Europe, the United States, and the world. In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries. While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit the world at large.”






en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIMBY (Not in my backyard!)

4 non-Wikipedia links, that try to show that the accidents so far were really not that bad, and i agree.





About the radioactivity of coal





Specific designs and proposals

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AP1000 (lots of these are being built in China)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrapower (Bill Gates is a supporter, see video below)



en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBMK (The design used in soviet reactors at Chernobyl)

More technical

I probably shud have refreshed my knowledge of particle fysics before reading these.










Public opinion


One interesting report is mentioned which found that education was a predictor of positive opinions towards NP. The report is here: ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_271_en.pdf

Big Five’s Openness to Experience and declicious correlations (yummy!)


Lots of interesting correlations!

“Intelligence and knowledge

Openness correlates with intelligence, correlation coefficients ranging from about r = .30 to r = .45.[11] Openness is moderately associated with crystallized intelligence, but only weakly with fluid intelligence.[11][12] A study examining the facets of openness found that the Ideas and Actions facets had modest positive correlations with fluid intelligence (r=.20 and r=.07 respectively).[11] These mental abilities may come more easily when people are dispositionally curious and open to learning. Several studies have found positive associations between openness to experience and general knowledge.[13][14][15][16] People high in openness may be more motivated to engage in intellectual pursuits that increase their knowledge.[16] Openness to experience, especially the Ideas facet, is related to need for cognition,[17] a motivational tendency to think about ideas, scrutinize information, and enjoy solving puzzles, and to typical intellectual engagement[18] (a similar construct to need for cognition).[19]

“Drug use

Psychologists in the early 1970s used the concept of openness to experience to describe people who are more likely to use marijuana. Openness was defined in these studies as high creativity, adventuresomeness, internal sensation novelty seeking, and low authoritarianism. Several correlational studies confirmed that young people who score high on this cluster of traits are more likely to use marijuana.[42][43] More recent research has replicated this finding using contemporary measures of openness.[44]

Cross-cultural studies have found that cultures high in Openness to Values have higher rates of use of the drug ecstasy, although a study at the individual level in the Netherlands found no differences in openness levels between users and non-users.[32] Ecstasy users actually tended to be higher in extraversion and lower in conscientiousness than non-users.

A 2011 study found Openness (and not other traits) was increased by psilocybin.[45] The study found that individual differences in levels of mystical experience while taking psilocybin were correlated with increases in Openness. Participants who met criteria for a ‘complete mystical experience’[note 1] experienced a significant mean increase in Openness, whereas those participants who did not meet the criteria experienced no mean change in Openness. Five of the six facets of Openness (all except Actions) showed this pattern of increase associated with having a mystical experience. Increases in Openness (including facets as well as total score) among those whose had a complete mystical experience were maintained more than a year after taking the drug. Participants who had a complete mystical experience changed more than 4 T-score points between baseline and follow up. By comparison, Openness has been found to normally decrease with ageing by 1 T-score point per decade.”

Very interesting. If shrooms can have lasting effects on O, perhaps we shud give shrooms to religious nutcases to open up their minds more?


More research is paving the way for gamete selection, not just embryo/zygote selection



The entire genomes of 91 human sperm from one man have been sequenced by Stanford University researchers. The results provide a fascinating glimpse into naturally occurring genetic variation in one individual, and are the first to report the whole-genome sequence of a human gamete — the only cells that become a child and through which parents pass on physical traits. …

To conduct the research, Wang, Quake and Behr first isolated and sequenced nearly 100 sperm cells from the study subject, a 40-year-old man. The man has healthy offspring, and the semen sample appeared normal. His whole-genome sequence (obtained from diploid cells) has been previously sequenced to a high level of accuracy.

They then compared the sequence of the sperm with that of the study subject’s diploid genome. They could see, by comparing the sequences of the chromosomes in the diploid cells with those in the haploid sperm cells, where each recombination event took place. The researchers also identified 25 to 36 new single nucleotide mutations in each sperm cell that were not present in the subject’s diploid genome. Such random mutations are another way to generate genetic variation, but if they occur at particular points in the genome they can have deleterious effects.

It’s important to note that individual sperm cells are destroyed by the sequencing process, meaning that they couldn’t go on to be used for fertilization. However, the single-cell sequencing described in the paper could potentially be used to diagnose male reproductive disorders and help infertile couples assess their options. It could also be used to learn more about how male fertility and sperm quality change with increasing age.

Pretty cool! Gotta love genomics!

Report: Copyright and Innovation: The Untold Story (Michael A. Carrier)

Official loation.

Download mirror: Copyright and Innovation The Untold Story


It reads like a series of cases studies of how horribly the current legislation is being abused.




Copyright has an innovation problem. Judicial decisions, private enforcement, and

public dialogue ignore innovation and overemphasize the harms of copyright infringement.

Just to pick one example, “piracy,” “theft,” and “rogue websites” were the focus of debate

in connection with the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But

such a debate ignores the effect of copyright law and enforcement on innovation. Even

though innovation is the most important factor in economic growth, it is difficult to observe,

especially in comparison to copyright infringement.

This Article addresses this problem. It presents the results of a groundbreaking study of

31 CEOs, company founders, and vice-presidents from technology companies, the recording

industry, and venture capital firms. Based on in-depth interviews, the Article offers original

insights on the relationship between copyright law and innovation. It also analyzes the

behavior of the record labels when confronted with the digital music revolution. And it

traces innovators’ and investors’ reactions to the district court’s injunction in the case

involving peer-to-peer (p2p) service Napster.

The Napster ruling presents an ideal setting for a natural experiment. As the first

decision to enjoin a p2p service, it presents a crucial data point from which we can trace

effects on innovation and investment. This Article concludes that the Napster decision

reduced innovation and that it led to a venture capital “wasteland.” The Article also

explains why the record labels reacted so sluggishly to the distribution of digital music. It

points to retailers, lawyers, bonuses, and (consistent with the “Innovator’s Dilemma”) an

emphasis on the short term and preservation of existing business models.

The Article also steps back to look at copyright litigation more generally. It

demonstrates the debilitating effects of lawsuits and statutory damages. It gives numerous

examples, in the innovators’ own words, of the effects of personal liability. It traces the

possibilities of what we have lost from the Napster decision and from copyright litigation

generally. And it points to losses to innovation, venture capital, markets, licensing, and the

“magic” of music.

The story of innovation in digital music is a fascinating one that has been ignored for

too long. This Article aims to fill this gap, ensuring that innovation plays a role in today’s

copyright debates.


Disgusting part:

D. Personal Liability: Experience

The concerns about the effects of personal liability are not theoretical.

Several of the innovators I interviewed relayed the harrowing experience of

being personally sued. The first described a “process server that broke into the
office” and “knocked on the door like it was the police.”414

He continued:

“Everything about it was meant to psychologically intimidate,” “it made a huge

impact on me,” and “I am going to do what I can the rest of my career to avoid

being in that situation again.”415

Another innovator explained that the labels said “we’re not going to sue the

company, we are going to sue you personally” since “we can make all kinds of

allegations and it’s your job to prove you’re not infringing” and “the lawsuit is

going to cost you between 15 and 20 million bucks.”416

The innovator decided

that he could “find better uses” for his money “than to give it to lawyers.”417

A third respondent noted how “stressful” it was when he was sued

personally. It was “definitely very scary” when they came with the “multiple

inch lawsuit for a couple billion bucks.”418

The innovator was afraid of the

“unknown” and worried that he could have a judgment “the rest of [his] life.”419

A fourth participant relayed a comment from a high-ranking official in the

recording industry who said “it’s too bad you have” children “who are going to

want to go to college and you’re not going to be able to pay for it.”420


innovator recognized a “real undisguised intimidation factor” and commented

on the “thug-like nature” of the “behavior of the record companies.”421

A fifth innovator knew that the personal lawsuit was “part of the game,”

but still thought it was a “slimy, scummy thing to do.”422

He was disappointed

since he was not a “‘free anarchist’ kind of guy” but was “quite the opposite,”

trying to “do things that [we]re positive for the industry.”423

The labels,

however, “just make up stuff to slander you and disparage people.”424


made partners “very hesitant,” since few would work with a company that was

sued and could go out of business.

The personal attacks were potent, and “most people do not have the

intestinal fortitude to weather [them].”425

One respondent “could list a dozen

people who have been sued and say ‘I want to fight,’” but then “just go away”

and “close up shop, even if they’re doing something that is reasonable.”426

A sixth respondent explained that “by far the most significant factor

worrying the [company’s] founders” and “frankly the thing that pushed them
over the edge to stop the business rather than fight on appeal” was “the

prospect that they could be personally liable.”427

There was “no reason” to sue

the company founder individually, and the plaintiffs made “fairly ludicrous


But the “mere fact” that the allegations were “out there” meant

“the CEO had to watch his step” and could “risk losing his house and his

family’s life savings.”429

There was “no question” that the personal lawsuit

“had the deterrent effect it was intended to have on innovation.”430



Today’s front-page stories and front-line battles on copyright have focused

on issues of piracy and theft. Given the figures of lost profits and jobs bandied

about by the entertainment industry, that is not surprising. But any discussion

of these harms must consider the countervailing argument.

Overaggressive copyright law and enforcement has substantially and

adversely affected innovation. This story has not been told. For it is a difficult

story to tell. It relies on a prediction of what would have happened if history

had taken a different course. We cannot pinpoint these losses with certainty.

And this gap is no match for piracy harms, which have been proclaimed with

the loudest of megaphones.

This Article addresses this age-old problem. It treats the Napster decision

as a case study to ascertain the effects of the decision on innovation and

investment. By interviewing 31 CEOs, company founders, and VPs who

operated in the digital music scene at the time of Napster and afterwards, it

paints the fullest picture to date of the effect of copyright law on innovation.

The Article concludes that the Napster decision stifled innovation,

discouraged negotiation, pushed p2p underground, and led to a venture capital

“wasteland.” It also recounts the industry’s mistakes and adherence to the

Innovator’s Dilemma in preserving an existing business model and ignoring or

quashing disruptive threats to the model. And it shows how the labels used

litigation as a business model, buttressed by vague copyright laws, statutory

damages, and personal liability.

Innovation is crucial to economic growth. But the difficulty of accounting

for it leads courts and policymakers to ignore it in today’s debates. Any

discussion of the appropriate role of copyright law must consider the effects on

innovation. This Article begins this process.

John Graham-Cunning on Charlges Babbage’s machines, and other things


He is a pretty cool guy himself: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Graham-Cumming



In 1838, Babbage invented the pilot (also called a cow-catcher), the metal frame attached to the front of locomotives that clears the tracks of obstacles.[37] He also constructed a dynamometer car and performed several studies on Isambard Kingdom Brunel‘s Great Western Railway in about 1838.[38] Babbage’s eldest son, Benjamin Herschel Babbage, worked as an engineer for Brunel on the railways before emigrating to Australia in the 1850s.[39]


“In On the Economy of Machine and Manufacture, Babbage described what is now called the Babbage principle, which describes certain advantages with division of labour. Babbage noted that highly skilled—and thus generally highly paid—workers spend parts of their job performing tasks that are “below” their skill level. If the labour process can be divided among several workers, it is possible to assign only high-skill tasks to high-skill and high-cost workers and leave other working tasks to less-skilled and lower-paid workers, thereby cutting labour costs. This principle was criticised by Karl Marx who argued that it caused labour segregation and contributed to alienation. The Babbage principle is an inherent assumption in Frederick Winslow Taylor‘s scientific management.”



Also mentioned is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace – Never heard of her.”

“Lovelace died at the age of thirty-six, on 27 November 1852,[23] from uterine cancer and bloodletting by her physicians.[24] She was buried, at her request, next to her father at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham.”

Another death caused by bloodletting. -.-

And another mention is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_logic. Never heard of that.


The official website to the plan of building the engine is plan28.org/. I wanted to contact him and suggest to him that he make a kickstarter account, but he left no email, only a Twitter, and i dont use Twitter. Apparently, it is possible to tweet him a message without an account, which i did.

Review of Philosophy, a very short introduction

This book was mediocre. I read it for two reasons. I have been considering what short introduction book is the best to give people who say that they want to get into filosofy. This is hard to know without having read alot of them. This is at least my 3rd, not counting the history-based introduction books. Those are super boring IMO.


I definitely like Quine et al’s The Web of Belief and Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy over this one.


Philosophy – A Very Short Introduction