Is Groupthink Ruining Peer Review?

I think it always has.

You may have heard of the site RetractionWatch, which tracks academic paper retractions. It’s important, because it helps keep the search for knowledge more on track. Now we have PeerReviewWatch, from London’s City University, helping us learn whether peer review is a reasonable way to move science forward. I have argued for years that peer review should not undergo peer review, it should simply be gotten rid of. There are better ways to do science, which you can read about in Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Inadequate Equilibria. One of the most important ways we can improve science is to create betting markets (see previous post) on research outcomes.

I encourage you to book mark PeerReviewWatch and watch them review peer review:

PeerReviewWatch Blog

September Reading Summary

My September Reading List

I seem to publish these at the end of each month, so consider this the October reading list if that’s more clickbaity …

The Complete and Utter Failure of Anti-Money-Laundering Laws

400 Microsoft Employees Share their Salary Data with Each other, then something interesting happens.

This Chinese company will fly you to China to teach English

Is WeWork a Fraud? — Very provocative, no way to validate these claims but worth reading.

Rethinking Animal-Based Food — will this happen? Probably, but not as soon as they think. 

Nonetheless, we estimate that between 140,000 and 328,000 (mean = 234,000) birds are killed annually by collisions with monopole turbines in the contiguous U.S. We found support for an increase in mortality with increasing turbine hub height and support for differing mortality rates among regions, with per turbine mortality lowest in the Great Plains.

That is from Estimates of bird collision mortality at wind facilities in the contiguous United States

Chinese Central Pork Bank releases millions of frozen pigs to stimulate Chinese demand

Robert Schiller talks about his new book, Narrative Economics

Not that news is true or that our view of the world isn’t already horribly skewed by biases everywhere, but now we have social-media Gerrymandering.

The incredibly well done but fatally flawed YouTube rap battle between the dollar (representing fiat) and bitcoin (representing “sound money”). 

We need a Filmmaker Mode button on our remotes.

How do you Count Countries? I have been to 99 countries, but I’m using my own methodology for counting, which you will find at the bottom of How do you count countries? 

Light Painting with Drones

McKinsey Global Institute on the Future of Work

The Mappedometer— I really like this and use it several times a week. Saves having to buy an Apple watch and track myself in real time. 

This is How We Know there are Two Trillion Galaxies in the Universe — and I thought it was 200 billion, sheesh!

The Sex Professor — I pointed to this last month and still recommend it. 

Number of Birds Killed by Wind Turbines

Nonetheless, we estimate that between 140,000 and 328,000 (mean = 234,000) birds are killed annually by collisions with monopole turbines in the contiguous U.S. We found support for an increase in mortality with increasing turbine hub height and support for differing mortality rates among regions, with per turbine mortality lowest in the Great Plains.

Estimates of bird collision mortality at wind facilities in the contiguous United States

Note - I am trying to get the most recent bat kill figures but am waiting for a scientist to answer my email.

My Review of the Avenir Next Libra Explainer

Avenir Next is a sharp think tank in Zurich working on free markets and neo-liberal economic policy. They put out a very well written review of the Libra project, which I encourage everyone to read. But hey, you don’t need to read it! I will walk you through it and show where I think they are on track and a few places where I think they went off the rails into fantasyland. Here’s my 35-minute video going through their paper with comments, enjoy:

Great Barrier Reef Dying? Or is the truth dying?

Every five years, the Australian government produces a very expensive piece of propaganda explaining that the Great Barrier Reef is just a few years away from death and destruction. The latest report is even more dire, saying climate change is the greatest threat to the reef and all its inhabitants.

Professor Peter Ridd, an expert on the Great Barrier Reef and climate change, and his university tried to silence him. He raised money from the crowd and sued his university for his right to free speech. Watch this important talk by Peter Ridd:

He was charged with 17 violations of university policy. He went to court and won: all 17 charges were dismissed.

Why are Health Care Costs So Damn High?

The answer is interesting. First, costs have risen, but not as much as you might have thought. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum offers a balanced look at wages in the health-care sector. He says they have gone up more than most, but not dramatically more. What has really increased is the sheer number of new diagnostic tests, fancy equipment and treatments, all of which need technicians, scheduling, paperwork, etc.

Read the Mother Jones Piece

That’s how the US outspends every other nation on earth:

health care costs.png

But if the US is going to pay more than any other country in the world for all these fancy new gadgets, shouldn't we get insanely great health care, not just cool high-tech procedures with expensive technicians?

It turns out - we don’t. The US health care system lags behind the rest of the world in so many measurements of outcome that you have to wonder whether any of the fancy stuff works at all:

health care outcomes.png

Learn more at

Alexey Guzey on the Business of Science

I wrote my recent piece on global warming in part to show that the business of science is broken. Not the scientific method itself, but how we pay for and get science, mostly in academia. Alexey Guzey has a very good thought piece on this that I hope you’ll read. Among other things, he points out that peer review is a farce. People argue with me about peer review, but they don’t bring data or an outside perspective, they just assume it works. Having looked into it, I assume it is mostly hijacked to serve the agenda of a small group in every domain of inquiry. Read Alexey’s piece and explore his web site:

How Life Sciences Actually Work: Findings of a Year-Long Investigation

Starts with a Bang

I have an interest in cosmology. I also have a deep suspicion that we haven’t really framed the question of “dark matter” properly yet. I’m not convinced the “dark matter” is there to be discovered. Instead, I think we’re not looking at it in the right way yet, just as we weren’t looking at the physical universe before 1900 in the right way, either. One of my favorite authors in this area is Ethan Siegel (no relation), whose Forbes blog, “Starts with a Bang” is well worth reading and keeping up on. Enjoy:

Starts with a Bang blog

Predicting Future Climate

NOTE: This blog will be updated 2-3 times a week and the other one as well. Please bookmark this page as I can’t get the domain to point to it directly. Thanks.

If you think about it, it’s very difficult to predict what temperatures on earth will be 80 years from now, no matter what your assumptions are. The uncertainties are huge. There simply can’t be any precision in predictions that far out. And, in fact, the UN climate assessment models continue to be revised downward, because the actual temperatures continue to not show what the models predicted 20 years ago. So the extreme climate predictions continue to come down, even as headlines continue to heat up. Here is a new peer-reviewed paper showing that the models don’t take clouds into account, and if you do take clouds into account there is no reason to believe that the climate will change much at all in response to increased CO2 in the upper troposphere.


It’s not easy to change your mind, but here is something to think about: If somehow a large number of credible scientists were to actually admit that close to 100 percent of observed and future climate change is not related to CO2 and that whatever happens we will have plenty of time to adapt to naturally very slowly rising sea levels and temperature, how would you react? Would you be happy or sad? I think a lot of climate activists would be very sad, because they are so engaged and their funding comes from raising the alarm. Honestly, would you be disappointed if it became a non-issue? If you would be disappointed, that’s a sign that you are not neutral, that you have a strong belief regardless of what the science shows, and that you strongly identify with others who are also fighting to save the planet from future climate destruction. If, on the other hand, you would breathe a huge sigh of relief, then you should come to and start your education.

Do We All Have Toxoplasmosis?

A reader named Bo Svensson sent me a note about toxoplasmosis. I have heard of it in cats, but humans? Apparently quite a few people have this parasite. Does it affect our behavior?

So I asked for metastudies, and I got them …

1. "The One Health Approach to Toxoplasmosis: Epidemiology, Control, and Prevention Strategies" (paper and a really good article)

2. "Beyond the association. Toxoplasma gondii in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and addiction: systematic review and meta-analysis" (paper)

3. "Toxoplasmosis – A Global Threat. Correlation of Latent Toxoplasmosis with Specific Disease Burden in a Set of 88 Countries" (paper)

4. "Driving us mad: the association of Toxoplasma gondii with suicide attempts and traffic accidents - a systematic review and meta-analysis".(paper)

Is this significant? Could Donald Trump be a carrier? What do you think?