Guess values, Priors and Science

GauravL

Wikipedia defines Guess value as

“In mathematical modeling, a guess value is more commonly called a starting value or initial value. These are necessary for most optimization problems which use search algorithms, because those algorithms are  mainly deterministic and iterative, and they need to start somewhere.”

I am not an intuitive mathematician (nor an unintuitive one for that matter), but I have appreciated the importance of good guess value or nominal value developing software that uses computational geometry.

Yesterday I read this excellent long piece- The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill . Personally, I had been convinced by the Aerosol spread theory since I read these two pieces back in the Summer of 2020.

How Coronavirus Infected Some, but Not All, in a Restaurant

How coronavirus spread from one member to 87% of the singers at a Washington choir practice

As a result, I have spent the better part of the previous 14 months wondering “why is the scientific community so slow in accepting potential aerosol dispersion of coronaviruses”. They say science progresses one funeral at a time, but since Jan 2020 we have had far too many funerals that should have sped up the progress. Ever since I read this piece – The “noble lie” on masks probably wasn’t a lie I had been spending limited time I had, browsing through old papers on the spread of respiratory illnesses to disappointing results. The wired piece helped deepen my understanding of how we may have got here. Where the 5-micron boundary for aerosols came from is an extremely fascinating story. Maybe we can expect some Netflix documentary or a long-form book on this issue in the near future.

This entire episode appears exceedingly similar to the Dietary Fat is the villain dogma. Gary Taubes in his books – Good Calories, Bad calories and A Case against Sugar, has described this debate extremely well. As a video suggestion, I would recommend the youtube channel – What I have learned. In retrospect what seems appalling is how the scientific community basically accepted the faulty and weak fundamentals of the Fat theory – as initiated by Ancel Keys and propagated by hundreds after that. Ditto for the demonization of cholesterol and numerous other food items – including milk.

7 country study of Ancel Keys.

From these two examples at the very least, I would conclude the disproportionate importance of Priors and the outsized impact they have on the journey of academic and peer-reviewed science. Hopefully, the pandemic will correct some bugs in this mechanism, though this is by all accounts a slow and arduous process.

Incidentally, I was chatting with Kushal Mehra about his latest discussion with Shrikant Talageri and Kushal pointed out that he thinks the 1500 BCE dating of Rgveda is also one such Prior which has had an outsized impact on the journey of the Aryan Debate. Prima facie I found this point fair – thought I must say, the 1500BCE date has held up quite well over the centuries (especially since the recent genetic results). But has the date 1500 BCE anchored the research around it, making 1500 BCE appear the best fit for composition of Rgveda and the beginning of consolidation of the Arya into the Indian palimpsest ?

Post script:

I know this place has had a lot of AIT/OIT pieces including this one by me and lot of readers might be fed up by it (even I am to an extent). This isn’t aimed at AIT/OIT but is merely a passing reference to it.

I don’t know how Max Mueller and others came up with the date myself – but it would be an interesting story to research notwithstanding the current research. I would also highly recommend Razib’s podcast with Mallory which delves into the history of the larger indo european question.

 

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Yoga: do your thing my brownz

Razib Khan

Sometimes I can’t help it, I’m going to do it. So here it goes, Yoga Teacher Jessamyn Stanley Believes White Supremacy Has Polluted Yoga – and It’s Time to Talk About It:

Jessamyn Stanley needs you to know what yoga is really about – and it’s not the poses.

In her new book Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance, the yoga instructor and body activist shares reflective personal essays that touch upon everything from racism to the cultural appropriation of American yoga, from consumerism to cannabis.

The book explores the existence of white supremacy and cultural appropriation in American yoga. “I would venture to say that everything in our collective society is rooted in white supremacy. I am sure there are many people who would disagree with that, and honestly I don’t care because I believe that and I know it’s the case,” she says.


“The appropriation comes from practitioners who are not South Asian looking at South Asian teachers and saying, ‘I need to do exactly what they’re doing. I need to practice yoga exactly how they’re practicing it.’ Yoga as a concept exists in so many cultures. It’s literally the basis of so many different things: the idea of acceptance and the yolking together of the light and the dark. But these teachers are just saying, ‘Practice yoga.’ They’re not saying, ‘Pretend to be Indian.’ They’re not saying, ‘Steal someone else’s ethnic identity.’ They’re saying, ‘Practice the balancing of truth and light within yourself.’ “

Two words: Kali Yuga. This whole timeline is cursed. It’s absurd. It’s perverted.

I’m not Hindu, so I don’t “believe” in yoga in a spiritual sense, though I have seen its efficacy is a form of exercise firsthand.  But the way it is…yoked, to the most absurd and bizarre social justice movements today is just a wonder to behold.

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White privilege, and how to get it

Razib Khan

The figure above shows that Indian American women make $1.21 for every $1.00 that a white man makes. I knew this data, but the infographic was brought to my attention to illustrate that not all South Asians are privileged. Pakistani women make $0.84 and Bangladeshi women $0.69.

Here’s the “problem” – 84% of “South Asians” are Indian American.

The reason that Indian Americans do so well is pretty obvious: human capital. They’re educated, they’re entrepreneurial, etc. At least to me. What if you believed that all outcome differences between nonwhites are due to white supremacy?

What have you heard about this? How is it people who now accept The Narrative explain how brown-skinned Indian Americans do so well while brown-skinned Pakistanis don’t? What have you heard?

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Stolen oppression

Razib Khan

‘The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind’ – A psychiatrist lecturing at Yale’s Child Study Center spoke about ‘unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way’.

The psychiatrist in question is Aruna Khilanani. Her parents are doctors. She was educated in private schools. But, she talks about her experience with discrimination. You know, stuff like not being supported as much in her medical residency as a blonde peer.

We have a problem. Who has the standing to point out the hypocrisy and manipulation of these people? I’m frankly sick of it. Any brown person in the United States does experience some racism. But those of us with education and resources are not really underprivileged in any way. The vast majority of white Americans, whose life expectancy is decreasing, have it worse off than us. That’s just a fact.

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Pivoting to the future

Razib Khan

2020 and 2021 are clearly going to be lost years. Delhi Reopens a Crack Amid Gloomy Economic Forecast for India:

The Indian capital, which just weeks ago suffered the devastating force of the coronavirus, with tens of thousands of new infections daily and funeral pyres that burned day and night, is taking its first steps back toward normalcy.

Officials on Monday reopened manufacturing and construction activity, allowing workers in those industries to return to their jobs after six weeks of staying at home to avoid infection. The move came after a sharp drop in new infections, at least by the official numbers, and as hospital wards emptied and the strain on medicine and supplies has eased.

Life on the streets of Delhi is not expected to return to normal immediately. Schools and most businesses are still closed. The Delhi Metro system, which reopened after last year’s nationwide lockdown, has suspended service again.

But everyone has to focus on the future. So what’s going on? How’s Modi’s going to supercharge the economy? I’m not Indian, I’m American. A strong India is good for America. An economically vibrant India is good for humanity.

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What the internet is today

Razib Khan

The troll above lives in Frisco, TX. If I spent $1 I could look up their name and identity. I have 35,000 Twitter followers, and blogs and newsletters that get tens of thousands of pageviews a day. I could make this person “famous” very quickly!

I (probably) won’t do this, but the lesson I want to put out there: be careful who you troll with appropriate “opsec.” Most of the time you people are beneath notice, but I am becoming aware I will have to “make examples” at some point soon to dissuade some of the more nasty behavior that crops up on the internet.

You don’t hide behind anonymity as much as you think. I “own” what I do say on the internet. Many of you lack courage so behave in a nasty manner under “pseudos.” But the day is something when monsters will get hungry, and even anchovies will appetizing.

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