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April and May 2022 SubCriticalAppraisal Newsletter
With links on psilocybin therapy, optogenetic rejuvenation, qubit teleportation, Cuban child mortality, and more.
This is the April and May 2022 issue of the SubCriticalAppraisal Newsletter (archives).
The purpose of this newsletter is to be a more meaningful and summarised version of the RSS feed, complete with all my writings, site updates, interesting links, and reviews each month.
Feel free to email me with any and all suggestions or feedback.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy Reduces Crime and Violence over 10 Years: Experimental Evidence, Blattmamn et al. 2022: (n=999) in high-risk Liberian men 8 weeks of CBT alone and CBT with a $200 grant decreased drug-selling and participation in thefts and robberies 10 years later by half
Increased global integration in the brain after psilocybin therapy for depression, Daws et al. 2022: blatant p-hacking — authors switched away from the registered primary outcome of QIDS depression scale to the BDI depression scale; related: Treating depression with psychedelics: red flags and FAQ: lack of control groups, lack of blinding, external validity, follow-up times (e.g. this ayahuasca for depression RCT that lasted merely 7 days with participants who had on average suffered depression for 11 years); the only RCT (phase 2) comparing psychedelic against standard treatment Carhart-Harris et al. 2021 (n=59) failed to find any statistically significant difference in antidepressant effects (see McConway’s comments); the much hyped phase 3 RCT comparing MDMA + therapy against placebo Mitchell et a. 2021 found significant reduction in PTSD symptoms SMD of 0.91 (95% CI 0.44–1.37) but 90% of participants could correctly guess which arm they were in i.e. no blinding (more commentary); see also Aday et al. 2021 for review of methodological challenges of psychedelic trials, and Staurt Ritchie on Everything you need to know about psychedelics and mental illness
Is the Placebo Powerless? — An Analysis of Clinical Trials Comparing Placebo with No Treatment, Hróbjartsson et al. 2001: placebos had no significant effects on objective or binary outcomes, had possible small benefits in studies with continuous subjective outcomes and for the treatment of pain; outside the setting of clinical trials, there is no justification for the use of placebos; and a 10-year follow-up: placebos have no clinical effect, except maybe in patient-reported outcomes like pain and nausea, but difficult to distinguish from biassed reporting and varies a lot
The diagnostic accuracy of lung auscultation in adult patients with acute pulmonary pathologies: a meta-analysis, Arts et al. 2022: overall pooled sensitivity for lung auscultation is 37% (95% CI: 30–47%) and specificity 89% (95% CI: 85–92%); LRs and AUCs of auscultation for CHF, OLD and pneumonia are low, only exception being presence of abnormal or decreased breath sounds in trauma patients with HPT; lung ultrasonography (LUS) should replace the stethoscope in most scenarios
Surgical Skill and Complication Rates after Bariatric Surgery, Birkmeyer et al. 2013: (n=20) peer rating of bariatric surgeons is quite accurate; the bottom quartile of surgical skill compared with the top was associated with higher complication rates (14.5% vs. 5.2%), higher mortality (0.26% vs. 0.05%, P=0.01), longer operations (extra 40 min), higher reoperation rate (3.4% vs. 1.6%), higher readmission rate (6.3% vs. 2.7%)
Diagnosing Physician Error: A Machine Learning Approach to Low-Value Health Care, Mullainathan et al. 2022: compared to ML model, testing for heart attack risk should drop by 47% but 27% of tests would be on patients not currently tested; tests would go from costing $89,714 to $59,390 per life-year
Reproducibility in Cancer Biology: The who, where and how of fusobacterium and colon cancer, Sears et al. 2018: F. nucleatum was just detected in 25% of colorectal carcinomas, and the differences in level in colorectal carcinomas and adjacent tissues (just 10%) was not significant but because the existing literature is strong the failed replication highlights the gap in our knowledge and methodology
24-Hour Fitness: the Orthopaedic Resident On-Call Workout, Derman et al. 2015:
“Perform the entire workout three times over the course of an in-house call.”
The illusion of evidence based medicine, Jureidini et al. 2022
Brain Drain and Health Workforce Distortions in Mozambique, Sherr et al. 2012: in Mozambique NGOs brain drain doctors from the public sector more than emigration
De novo contributions for ASD > schizophrenia; common variant contributions for schizophrenia > ASD
Related: psychiatric genetics summarised:
See the striking difference in the common variant contributions to disease heritability for ASD and schizophrenia.
Also related: Identification of common genetic risk variants for autism spectrum disorder, Grove et al. 2019: a positive relationship between IQ and ASD only exists in Asperger's and childhood ASD; high-functioning subtypes likely derive liability more from common variants and low functioning subtypes from de novo and rare inherited variants
Trends in US Medicare Decedents' Diagnosis of Dementia From 2004 to 2017, Davis et al. 2022: (n=3M) Medicare decedents with an ADRD diagnosis increased from 34.7% in 2004 to 47.2% in 2017 (if stringent definition 25.2% to 39.2%)
Intergenerational Persistence in Child Mortality, Lu et al. 2022: in 44 developing countries, women of any given age with at least 1 sibling who died in childhood has a 39% higher odds of one of their own children die, translating to a 7% increase in risk at the of childbrearing period
Anatomic position determines oncogenic specificity in melanoma, Weiss et al. 2022: anatomic position as a major determinant of why cells respond to specific oncogenes
Single-Cell Epigenomics Reveals Mechanisms of Cancer Progression, LaFave et al. 2022, and Genome-wide CRISPR screens of T cell exhaustion identify chromatin remodeling factors that limit T cell persistence, Belk et al. 2022
Blood-derived amyloid-β protein induces Alzheimer's disease pathologies, Xiang et al. 2017: Aβ protein from the periphery enters brain to cause AD in mice
Does having children extend life span? A genealogical study of parity and longevity in the Amish, McArdle et al. 2006: (n=2,000) lifespan of fathers increased in linear fashion with increasing number of children (0.23 years per additional child; p =.01), while lifespan of mothers increased linearly up to 14 children (0.32 years per additional child; p =.004) but decreased with each additional child beyond 14 (p =.0004)
Radiation Hormesis: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Luckey 2006: low dose ionising radiation is good??
A Longitudinal Study of COVID-19 Sequelae and Immunity: Baseline Findings, Sneller et al. 2022: (n=300) extensive diagnostic evaluation failed to find any pathophysiology of long covid (all objective test results were normal) despite 55% of participants reported 1 or more persistent post acute symptoms
Genome wide screen of RNAi molecules against SARS-CoV-2 creates a broadly potent prophylaxis, Yogev et al. 2022: intranasal spray of small interfering RNA (siRNA) cocktail resistant to antigenic drift in spike protein
Vitamin D Supplements for Prevention of Covid-19 or other Acute Respiratory Infections: a Phase 3 Randomized Controlled Trial (CORONAVIT), Jolliffe et al. 2022: (n=6,200) vitamin D replacement did not reduce risk of all-cause acute respiratory infections or Covid-19
The economics of global COVID vaccine administration during a pandemic – Why continue skin alcohol preparation as a costly but ineffective practice?, Poland et al. 2022: wiping skin before vaccination has no benefit whatsoever; incomplete drying causes more pain if alcohol is enters injection site; millions of cumulative hours wasted translates into billions of total wasted dollars in resources and nursing wages
Fat tax: under Japan’s “metabo” law employers and local government conducts annual waist measurements of citizens aged 40-75 to fight obesity (Japan is one of the least obese developed countries); those who fail the test are required to attend counselling sessions, monitoring through phone and email, and motivational support
Execution by organ procurement: Breaching the dead donor rule in China, Robertson et al. 2022
Accessory spleen in 10% of the population may be confused for enlarged lymph node or neoplastic growth on imaging
Raman2RNA: Live-cell label-free prediction of single-cell RNA expression profiles by Raman microscopy, Kobayashi-Kirschvink et al. 2022: It is mind-blowing that this works at all. But to be clear, this is not reading the cell's transcriptome, just taking a high dimensional image of the cell itself and mapping that to transcriptome training data. It will work great for mapping natural cell states in cell types with lots of training data, but I can't imagine it will work well for DNA barcodes, perturbation screens, or for synthetic genetic programs with novel phenotypes (i.e. where training data is lacking/irrelevant).
De Novo RNA Tertiary Structure Prediction at Atomic Resolution Using Geometric Potentials from Deep Learning, Pearce et al. 2022: coupling deep self-attention NNs with gradient-based folding simulations constructed models with an average RMSD= 2.69 Å and TM-score= 0.743 (outperforms other models by a large margin) and only takes 1 minute to fold medium-sized RNAs (350-4000x faster than the best Monte Carlo methods)
The complete sequence of a human genome, Nurk et al. 2022
Polygenic prediction of educational attainment within and between families from genome-wide association analyses in 3 million individuals, Okbay et al. 2022: (n=3M) 4k SNPs polygenic score (PGS) explains 12-16% of education attainment variation; direct effects (causal effect of parental genes) only explain half of it, and Genetics of cognitive performance, education and learning: from research to policy?, Visscher 2022: PGS explains 15% of individual differences in out-of-sample prediction i.e. correlation between PGS and education attainment is 0.4; difference in college completion between top and bottom PGS decile was 50% (!)
Optogenetic rejuvenation of mitochondrial membrane potential extends C. elegans lifespan, Berry et al. 2022: boosting mitochondrial membrane potential through a light-activated proton pump reversed age-associated phenotypes and extended C. elegans lifespan
Young CSF restores oligodendrogenesis and memory in aged mice via Fgf17, Iram et al. 2022
Tether-free photothermal deep-brain stimulation in freely behaving mice via wide-field illumination in the near-infrared-II window, Wu et al. 2022: wide-field second near-infrared spectral window (NIR-II) illumination enables implant-and-tether-free deep brain stimulation in mice with injected transducers (photothermal conversion efficiency of 71%) expressing TRPV1
Life, Uh, Finds A Way
Genetic variance in fitness indicates rapid contemporary adaptive evolution in wild animals, Bonnet et al. 2022: 19 wild animal species evolve are evolving twice as fast as previously estimated
Somatic mutation rates scale with lifespan across mammals, Cagan et al. 2022: inverse scaling of somatic mutation rates with lifespan
High Concentrations of floating life in the North Pacific Garbage Patch, Chong et al. 2022
The capybara is my spirit animal.
An autonomously oscillating supramolecular self-replicator, Howlett et al. 2022:
2.3 Physics/Computer Science
Qubit teleportation between non-neighbouring nodes in a quantum network, Hermans et al. 2022
The information-theoretic foundation of thermodynamic work extraction, Marletto et al. 2022
Irreversible synthesis of an ultrastrong two-dimensional polymeric material, Zeng et al. 2022: new ultrastrong 2D polymer with 2D elastic modulus substantially higher than polycarbonate, toughened epoxy, or nylon, yield strength 2x that of structural steel despite ⅙ the density, and ultralow gas permeability
Two-particle Bose-Einstein correlations in pp collisions at √s = 13 TeV measured with the ATLAS detector at the LHC, Aad et al. 2022: 8,778 authors
Asymptotic burnout and homeostatic awakening: a possible solution to the Fermi paradox?, Wong et al. 2022: solution to the Fermi paradox that perfectly resonates with Dator’s four alternative futures which, in turn, perfectly maps current debates between techno-optimists, degrowthers and collapsologists:
The Growth trajectories of technological civilizations inevitably reach “asymptotic burnout”, then they can (1) revert through a Collapse trajectory, (2) follow an “awakening trajectory” towards “homeostatic reorientation” (discipline, degrowth) or (3) go through a Transformational “narrow bottleneck” to become Type III civilizations in the Kardashev scale.
The Hazards of Predicting Divorce Without Crossvalidation, Heyman et al. 2001: overfitting rears its head again; Gottman et al. famous 90% accuracy in predicting divorce is down to 21% with crossvalidation
The data revolution in social science needs qualitative research, Grogoropoulou et al. 2022
Student evaluations of teaching: teaching quantitative courses can be hazardous to one's career, Uttl et al. 2017: in NYU Maths lecturers got far worse student evaluations than English lecturers (21% vs 71% pass the mean as standard, 80% Maths lecturer “unsatisfactory” performance); professors teaching quantitative courses are far less likely to receive tenure, promotion and merit pay when evaluated against common standards:
I’d like to see a scatterplot of grade vs teaching eval score; quant majors typically often have nean <3.0 and non-quant often >3.5.
Bombs, brains, and science: the role of human and physical capital for the creation of scientific knowledge, Waldinger 2016: would you rather lose 10% of your researchers or 10% of your labs? (more discussion)
The dismissal of scientists in Nazi Germany contributed 9x more to the decrease in scientific output in Germany than did the destruction of a large percentage of its research buildings.
The Returns to Physical Capital in Knowledge Production: Evidence from Lab Disasters, Baryffaldi et al. 2021: scientists experience a substantial and persistent reduction in research output if they lose specialised physical capital but quickly recover if they only lose generic physical capital
Clubs and networks in economics reviewing, Carrel et al. 2021: clique of shared PhD institution of attendance, employment, NBER program affiliation, coauthor network degrees of separation, and publishing in a “top five” economics journal
Systematic Bias in the Progress of Research, Rubin et al. 2021: articles published in the Journal of Business before its discontinuation in 2006 (which ought to have no relation to the contribution of its articles) saw relative reduction in citations of 20%
Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?, Azoulay et al. 2019: yes — premature death of eminent life scientist is followed by marked increase in articles by outsiders
My Precious! The Location and Diffusion of Scientific Research: Evidence from the Synchrotron Diamond Light Source, Helmers et al. 2016: increase in scientific output of around four SDs within a 25 km radius of the 3rd generation synchrotron (a large basic scientific research facility in the UK) due to increase in inputs rather than scientist productivity
Openness and Transparency at Clinical Psychological Science: a win for open science
Mental speed is high until age 60 as revealed by analysis of over a million participants, Krause et al. 2022: (n=1.2M):
Mental speed drops off at age 60.
Tips From the Top: Do the Best Performers Really Give the Best Advice?, Levari et al. 2022: (n=8,700) top performers didn’t give better advice but more of it, perhaps because their natural talent means they have little insight into why they’re good, cannot relate to or remember the challenges faced by novices, or the advisees simply fail to follow the abundant advice
Entropy of city street networks linked to future spatial navigation ability, Coutrot et al. 2022: (n=397,000) people who grow up outside cities were better at navigation (in a video game)
The Illusion of Stable Preferences over Major Life Decisions, Mueller et al. 2022: Kenyan desired fertility is very unstable but most Kenyans perceive their desires to be stable and incorrectly recalls wanting exactly as many children they desire today
Not within spitting distance: salivary immunoassays of estradiol have subpar validity for cycle phase, Arslan et al. 2022: (n=1,200) salivary steroid immunoassays used to investigate the psychological effects of menstrual cycle phase are basically useless
Friston's theory of everything, McCrone 2022
Experiences of Ugliness in Nature and Urban environments, Felisberti 2021
Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research, Macknik et al. 2008
What the Students for Fair Admissions Cases Reveal About Racial Preferences, Arcidiancono et al. 2022: Harvard admit rates for typical black applicants are 4x greater than if they had been treated as white; 2.4x for Hispanic applicants; for in-state applicants, admit rate into UNC increased 70% for blacks; 10x for out-of-state
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul? The Redistribution of Wealth Caused by Rent Control, Ahern et al. 2022: rent control transfers wealth from poor households to rich white households
Structural sexism and Women's alcohol use in the United States, 1988–2016, McKetta et al. 2022: (n=20,000) decrease in structural sexism increases alcohol use frequency (RR: 0.974, 95% CI: 0.971, 0.976) and binge drinking probability (OR: 0.917, 95% CI: 0.909, 0.926)
Why Do Women Earn Less than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators, Bolotnyy et al. 2022: female bus and train operators earn $0.89 for each male-worker dollar even in a unionised workplace where tasks, wages, and promotion schedules are identical for men and women by design; 11% pay gap due to female operators taking fewer overtime hours and more unpaid time off than do male operators
“The rebirth of the West begins with you!”—Self-improvement as radicalisation on 4chan, Elley 2022: Nature gets ironpilled
A Many-Analysts Approach to the Relation Between Religiosity and Well-being, Hoogeveen et al. 2022: (n=10,000) of the 120 teams analyse dataset from 24 countries, only 3 reported a positive effect size and CI that excludes zero for the effect of religiosity on self-reported well being (median reported beta = 0.120); 78 teams for moderating influence of religious cultural norms on the effect (median reported beta = 0.039)
Predicting romantic interest during early relationship development: A preregistered investigation using machine learning, Eastwick et al. 2022: no evidence for ideal partner preference-matching effects on romantic interest
Finding a Mate: Contemporary Partnership and Conception, Skirbekk 2022
Bet on Innovation, Not ESG Metrics, to Lead the Net Zero Transition, Madden et al. 2022
Political sectarianism in America, Finkel et al. 2020
Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth, Mises 1920, and Bryan Caplan on Why I Am Not an Austrian Economist
Mechanical Watch: Bartosz Ciechanowski’s blog posts are works of art
The original Pong had no code and was built using hardware circuitry:
The original Atari schematic.
GDPR and the Lost Generation of Innovative Apps, Janßen et al. 2022: EU continues to deliver — its general data protection regulation (GDPR) implemented in 2018 killed a third of the existing apps on Play Store, cut new apps by half; reduces consumer surplus and aggregate app usage by a third
Persistence Despite Revolutions, Alesina et al. 2022: the Cultural Revolution failed — individuals whose grandparents belonged to the pre-revolution elite earn 12% more income and have completed more than 11% additional years of schooling than the rest of the population
Sweet Unbinding: Sugarcane cultivation and the demise of foot-binding, Cheng et al. 2022: the substantial demand for female labour in cane compared to rice cultivation as seen in cane railroad data explains the sudden demise of Taiwanese foot-binding
Infrastructure Costs, Brooks et al. 2022: real spending per mile on Interstate construction increased more than threefold from the 1960s to the 1980s; increases in income and housing prices explain half of the increase in spending per mile; NIMBYism increased expenditure per mile
Transferable Skills? Founders as Venture Capitalists, Gompers et al. 2022: successfully-exited founder-VCs have investment success rates 6.5% higher than professional VCs; unsuccessful founder-VCs 4% lower
The effectiveness of nudging: A meta-analysis of choice architecture interventions across behavioral domains, Mertens et al. 2021: (n=2M) choice architecture interventions promote behavioural change with Cohen’s d = 0.43 (95% CI [0.38, 0.48]); targeting decision structure outperforms targeting decision information and decision assistance; food choices up to 2.5 larger effect sizes than other domains; small publication bias:
The Mechanics of the Industrial Revolution, Kelly et al. 2022: industrialisation occurred in areas that began with low wages but high mechanical skills, whereas other variables such as literacy, banks and proximity to coal have little explanatory power — regional specialisation due to market integration stimulated the demand for artisan skills in the regions specialising in those products; the British apprenticeship system was more flexible and market-oriented than elsewhere and the institutional structure that enforced the institution was more effective; the lower inequality of income distribution in Britain in the first half of the 18th century meant that there was considerable demand for middle-class luxuries that demanded high levels of skills; the average quality of the entire British labour force was higher than on the Continent
London congestion charge: the impact on air pollution and school attendance by socioeconomic status, Keivabu et al. 2022: central London congestion charge substantially decreased pollution; no improvement in school attendance for all schools combined, but decrease in absence for schools with high share of poor students
Wage Determination Theory and the Five-Dollar Day at Ford, Raff 2009: Ford increased wages in excess of the opportunity cost of the labour employed to prevent strikes — a rent-sharing theory driven by the threat of collective action, not due to turnover costs, adverse selection, or moral hazard
Cuban infant mortality and longevity: health care or repression?, Betdine et al. 2018: misreporting of neonatal deaths as late fetal deaths, and coercing patients into having abortions (72.8 per 100 births, one of the highest in the word) to inflate infant mortality rate; other repressive policies unrelated to healthcare e.g. low car ownership and sustained food shortages after the collapse of the USSR contribute to Cuba’s health outcomes:
Correcting for late fetal death misclassification and pressured abortions alone demotes Cuba into third of fourth place in Latin America.
Related: Population-wide weight loss and regain in relation to diabetes burden and cardiovascular mortality in Cuba 1980-2010: repeated cross sectional surveys and ecological comparison of secular trends, Franco et al. 2013: Cuba’s economic crisis in the mid-1990s led to rapid declines in diabetes and heart disease accompanied by an average population-wide loss of 5.5 kg (!)
More: Pseudoerasmus on Ideology & Human Development: Cuba’s human development accomplishments are real but not nearly as impressive as boosters claim — its social indicators were already advanced in 1960; Castro’s regime was massively subsidised by the Soviets to overcome the fixed costs; Cuban doctors and educators tried to meet targets at all cost; the Cuban government sacrificed consumption elsewhere reducing overall welfare; see also The Surprising Human Development Index of Cuba, The Paradox of Cuban GDP, Castro: Coercing Cubans into Health, and On Cuba's Fake Stats; as Tyler Cowen writes: one should interpret anything about Cuba or coming out of Cuban data with extreme caution
Sorting Expertise, Kaya et al. 2022
The spread of modern manufacturing to the poor periphery, O’Rourke et al. 2017
Sequoia for founders: Adapting to Endure
Twenty-year economic impacts of deworming, Hamory et al. 2021: randomised deworming of Kenyan children finds 2-3 additional years of deworming lead to 14% gain in consumption expenditures and 13% increase in hourly earnings; annualised social internal rate of return of 37% (!)
Comparing top forecasters and domain experts: prediction markets seem worse than cleverly aggregated prediction pools (at least when liquidity is as low as in the play markets)
Hedonistic vs. Preference Utilitarianism (people don’t know how badass Peter Singer is — he built his career on his meta ethics view of universal prescriptivism and preference act utilitarianism switched to moral realism and hedonic act utilitarianism, unheard of in academia)
Best Font for Online Reading: No Single Answer: (n=352) 35% reading speed difference among 16 high-legibility fonts but no single best font; reading speed decreases 11% for every 20 years of age
Zheng Yi Sao: the prostitute who took over her husband’s pirate confederation with the help of his adopted son whom she later married, commanded a fleet of 400 junks and 60,000 pirates, destroyed half of the Qing navy ships assigned to protect Guangdong, retired by surrendering her confederation while retaining a private fleet of 20-30 ships
Richard Francis Burton: the 19th century British explorer spoke 29 languages, documented his journey to Mecca in disguise at a time when Europeans were forbidden by death, translated One Thousand and One Nights unexpurgated, published the Kama Sutra in English, translated the “Arab Kuma Sutra” The Perfumed Garden, served as a captain of the East Indian Company, and extensively criticised colonial policies of the British Empire
Reedy Creek Improvement District: Disney has its own district in Florida that acts with the same authority and responsibility as a country government, which will be dissolved in June 2023 because of Disney’s opposition to a bill that bans primary classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity
Silphium: the plant that might have been fucked by the Romans into extinction
Comité Régional d'Action Viticole: militant French wine producers who dynamited grocery stores, a winery, the agriculture ministry offices in two cities, burnt a car at another, hijacked tankers, and destroyed untold quantities of non-French wine
Gabriel: in Islam the archangel has 600 wings and was the one who leveled the entire city of Sodom with a tip of his wing