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Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Michigan State University

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Seminar and Photos

Last week I visited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to give a seminar.

The new material is in slides 13-16. See also Live Long and Prosper: Genetic Architecture of Complex Traits and Disease Risk Predictors. I believe the sibling validation results are extremely important: typically most of the predictive power persists in within-family validation tests. We have not released this paper but will soon -- the slides are a preview. To be honest I fully anticipated these results: the large number of out of sample predictor validations using unrelated individuals strongly suggests that real genetic effects are at work. However, many people are irrationally biased against -- have strong priors against -- genetic causation of complex traits (even disease risks). These family designs provide important "gold standard" evidence, which, one can hope, will enlighten even the most stubborn. The sad alternative is progress one funeral at a time...

Otherwise the talk is similar to the one I gave at the Berkeley/UCSF Innovative Genomics Institute last summer. Video of IGI talk.
Title: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits and Disease Risks via AI/ML and Large Genomic Datasets

Abstract: The talk is divided into two parts. The first gives an overview of the rapidly advancing area of genomic prediction of disease risks using polygenic scores. We can now identify risk outliers (e.g., with 5 or 10 times normal risk) for about 20 common disease conditions, ranging from diabetes to heart diseases to breast cancer, using inexpensive SNP genotypes (i.e., as offered by 23andMe). We can also predict some complex quantitative traits (e.g., adult height with accuracy of few cm, using ~20k SNPs). I discuss application of these results in precision medicine as well as embryo selection in IVF, and give some details about genetic architectures. The second part covers the AI/ML used to build these predictors, with an emphasis on "sparse learning" and phase transitions in high dimensional statistics.
Some photos. The ones on the wall of the seminar room capture a golden era in molecular biology and the study of DNA. Leo Szilard on the right in the one below. Also, Jacques Monod, Crick and Watson, Wally Gilbert, Max Delbruck, Frank Stahl, Francois Jacob, David Baltimore. Of these individuals I have known four in person. I would give a lot to have met Crick and especially Szilard. While at CSHL I learned that James Watson is still alive and intellectually active.

See H. Judson's The Eighth Day of Creation (PDF) for a brilliant but readable history of the golden age of molecular biology.












Thursday, February 20, 2020

Yang Wang on Science and Technology in China, Hong Kong Protests, and Corona Virus - Manifold Podcast #34



Yang Wang is Dean of Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Professor Wang received his BS degree in mathematics from University of Science and Technology of China in 1983, and his PhD degree from Harvard University in 1990 under the supervision of Fields medalist David Mumford. He served as Chair of the Mathematics department at Michigan State University before joining HKUST.

2:50 - US-China Relations: Has China advanced through the development of human capital or the theft of intellectual property?
16:23 - Academic Culture in China
33:00 - Hong Kong Protests: Economic inequality, housing prices, and outside actors.
1:04:09 - Corona Virus COVID-19: Has the Corona Virus established a new mode of online education in Hong Kong? Yang makes a forecast about the epidemic's trajectory.

Transcript

Yang Wang, Dean of Science at HKUST


Yang Wang (Faculty Profile)


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Live Long and Prosper: Genetic Architecture of Complex Traits and Disease Risk Predictors

New paper! Non-coding regions contribute significantly to genetic disease risk -- think twice before you opt for exome sequencing over array genotyping. Also, pleiotropy between common disease risks seems to be weak.

Credit to Soke Yuen Yong for performing essentially all the analysis in this paper.
Genetic Architecture of Complex Traits and Disease Risk Predictors

Soke Yuen Yong, Timothy G. Raben, Louis Lello, Stephen D. H. Hsu

Genomic prediction of complex human traits (e.g., height, cognitive ability, bone density) and disease risks (e.g., breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, atrial fibrillation) has advanced considerably in recent years. Predictors have been constructed using penalized algorithms that favor sparsity: i.e., which use as few genetic variants as possible. We analyze the specific genetic variants (SNPs) utilized in these predictors, which can vary from dozens to as many as thirty thousand. We find that the fraction of SNPs in or near genic regions varies widely by phenotype. For the majority of disease conditions studied, a large amount of the variance is accounted for by SNPs outside of coding regions. The state of these SNPs cannot be determined from exome-sequencing data. This suggests that exome data alone will miss much of the heritability for these traits - i.e., existing PRS cannot be computed from exome data alone. We also study the fraction of SNPs and of variance that is in common between pairs of predictors. The DNA regions used in disease risk predictors so far constructed seem to be largely disjoint (with a few interesting exceptions), suggesting that individual genetic disease risks are largely uncorrelated. It seems possible in theory for an individual to be a low-risk outlier in all conditions simultaneously.

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.12.946608v1
doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.02.12.946608
From the conclusions:
III. The DNA regions used in disease risk predictors so far constructed seem to be largely disjoint (with a few interesting exceptions), suggesting that individual genetic disease risks are largely uncorrelated.

Observation III has interesting implications for pleiotropy [63–65]. We found that genetic risks are largely uncorrelated for different conditions. This suggests that there can exist individuals with, e.g., low risk simultaneously in each of multiple conditions, for any essentially any combination of conditions. There is no trade-off required between different disease risks ... One could speculate that a lucky individual with exceptionally low risk across multiple conditions might have an unusually long life expectancy.


Note added: Some clarifying remarks from the comments.
1. We used the output of the UKB variant calling pipeline for the 50k exomes they released -- it is essentially the output data that researchers have available from these exomes. This is discussed in great detail in some of the references as there were some technical issues with the pipeline. SNPs that are not called by this process are (presumably) not determined from the exome reads. Exome sequencing only probes a small fraction of the whole genome, after all.

In any case, we independently analyzed the locations of the SNPs and plenty are outside of coding regions, etc. Referring to the exome process specifically is just to give another "operational" definition of what is in coding vs non-coding regions since the boundaries of these regions are a bit ill-defined in the literature.

2. Plenty of people believe in strong pleiotropy, and are likely surprised by this result. High dimensionality alone is enough to make low pleiotropy plausible, but it *might* have been the case that some special genomic regions play an important role across many diseases. Lots of people with "strong biomedical intuition" told me this would be the case, but apparently not...

There is no way to know until you compare detailed genetic architectures on a disease by disease basis. We are the first to do that.

We don't claim that genetic correlations are close to zero. We just characterize the correlation/overlap between known predictor SNPs for the various diseases. (There is still plenty of heritability not yet discovered for each of the diseases -- need more training data. The predictors will improve a lot in time but these are the most significant SNPs -- i.e. the easiest to discover.)

From our results one can at least put a lower bound on the amount of "risk reduction" (or longevity gain!) that is independently and simultaneously available across various diseases (e.g., if one could make edits freely). It's a lot.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Elizabeth Kolbert on Climate Change: Impacts and Mitigation Technologies



Steve and Corey talk to Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction, about the current state of the climate debate. All three are pessimistic about the possibility that emissions will be substantively reduced in the near term, and they discuss technologies for removing carbon from the atmosphere. They explore uncertainty in the models regarding temperature rise and precipitation, and contemplate a billion people on the move in response to climate change and population increase. They ask: what is more of a threat to humanity in the coming century, runaway AI or runaway climate change?

Transcript

Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker)

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Jobs and AI

Carbon Capture


Related:

Epistemic Caution and Climate Change

Certainties and Uncertainties in our Energy and Climate Futures: Steve Koonin


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Double Helix: "to understand what life is, we must know how genes act"


I'll be visiting Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory next week to give a talk. I decided to reread Watson's The Double Helix in advance of my trip. I think I originally read it while an undergraduate, and hadn't really looked at it since.

There are striking (at least to me) aspects of even the first few pages of the book. When I went to college, physics students were already told that biology -- specifically, molecular biology, was the future and that physics was already such a mature subject that there was little left to discover. In retrospect this advice was not without merit, but my personal opinion, having spent an entire career as a physicist, and having also done some work in biology (albeit in a very computational area), is that there is nothing more valuable than the training one receives in theoretical physics. To deny that this training has turned out to be useful in a variety of other fields, including Biology, Computer Science, Engineering, Finance, Data Science, ... is simply to deny reality.

For those interested in the history of science, the deep workings of academia, and intellectual history, I recommend investigating the origins of molecular biology. One has to admit that molecular methods revolutionized biology, and continue to do so. Yet, many molecular biology departments were established (originally with names like BioPhysics!) against the wishes of "real'' biologists of the era. It is telling that even today, at many universities, the Department of Molecular Biology (or equivalent) is a separate department from the one with more classical roots (to use Bialek's terminology below). This, despite that fact that molecular techniques are now universally applied and central to most advances in biology.

A new field was created by invaders from outside; it grew and advanced enormously; it eventually ate its predecessor...

Watson on Crick (The Double Helix):
Already he is much talked about, usually with reverence, and someday he may be considered in the category of Rutherford or Bohr. But this was not true when, in the fall of 1951, I came to the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University to join a small group of physicists and chemists working on the three-dimensional structures of proteins. At that time he was thirty-five, yet almost totally unknown. Although some of his closest colleagues realized the value of his quick, penetrating mind and frequently sought his advice, he was often not appreciated...

For almost forty years Bragg, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the founders of crystallography, had been watching X-ray diffraction methods solve structures of ever-increasing difficulty. The more complex the molecule, the happier Bragg became when a new method allowed its elucidation.

... Somewhere between Bragg the theorist and Perutz the experimentalist was Francis, who occasionally did experiments but more often was immersed in the theories for solving protein structures.

... Before my arrival in Cambridge, Francis only occasionally thought about deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and its role in heredity. This was not because he thought it uninteresting. Quite the contrary. A major factor in his leaving physics and developing an interest in biology had been the reading in 1946 of What Is Life? by the noted theoretical physicist Erwin Schrodinger. This book very elegantly propounded the belief that genes were the key components of living cells and that, to understand what life is, we must know how genes act.
From the 2013 post In search of principles: when biology met physics:
This is an excerpt from the introduction of Bill Bialek's book on biophysics. Bialek was a professor at Berkeley when I was a graduate student, but has since moved to Princeton. See also For the historians and the ladiesAs flies to wanton boys are we to the gods and Prometheus in the basement.
... In one view of history, there is a direct path from Bohr, Delbruck and Schrodinger to the emergence of molecular biology. Certainly Delbruck did play a central role, not least because of his insistence that the community should focus (as the physics tradition teaches us) on the simplest examples of crucial biological phenomena, reproduction and the transmission of genetic information. The goal of molecular biology to reduce these phenomena to interactions among a countable set of molecules surely echoed the physicists’ search for the fundamental constituents of matter, and perhaps the greatest success of molecular biology is the discovery that many of these basic molecules of life are universal, shared across organisms separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary history. Where classical biology emphasized the complexity and diversity of life, the first generation of molecular biologists emphasized the simplicity and universality of life’s basic mechanisms, and it is not hard to see this as an influence of the physicists who came into the field at its start.



See also On Crick and Watson:
Crick, 35, had already had a career in physics interrupted by the war and despaired of making his great contribution to science. Watson was a callow 23, fresh from Indiana.
[Chargaff]: It was clear to me that I was faced with a novelty: enormous ambition and aggressiveness, ... Thinking of the many sweaty years of making preparations of nucleic acids and of the innumerable hours spent on analyzing them, I could not help being baffled. I am sure that, had I had more contact with, for instance, theoretical physicists, my astonishment would have been less great. In any event, there they were, speculating, pondering, angling for information. ...
Watson: ... to understand what life is, we must know how genes act.

This program is still being carried out!
Title: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits and Disease Risks via AI/ML and Large Genomic Datasets

Abstract: The talk is divided into two parts. The first gives an overview of the rapidly advancing area of genomic prediction of disease risks using polygenic scores. We can now identify risk outliers (e.g., with 5 or 10 times normal risk) for about 20 common disease conditions, ranging from diabetes to heart diseases to breast cancer, using inexpensive SNP genotypes (i.e., as offered by 23andMe). We can also predict some complex quantitative traits (e.g., adult height with accuracy of few cm, using ~20k SNPs). I discuss application of these results in precision medicine as well as embryo selection in IVF, and give some details about genetic architectures. The second part covers the AI/ML used to build these predictors, with an emphasis on "sparse learning" and phase transitions in high dimensional statistics.
I will also present some new material (not yet published) on pleiotropy and also on within-family (sibling) validation of genomic predictors.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Meghan Daum on the New Culture Wars - Manifold Podcast #32



Corey and Steve talk to Meghan Daum about her new book The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through The New Culture Wars. Meghan describes how she became aware of the "Red Pill" through what she calls "free speech YouTube" videos. The three ask whether their feeling of alienation from Gen-Z wokeness is just a sign of getting old or reflects principles of free speech and open debate. Megan argues that Gen-Z's focus on fairness leads to difficult compromises. They discuss social interactions in the pre-internet, early-internet, and woke-internet eras.

Transcript

Meghan Daum (Author Website)

Meghan Daum on Medium

The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Report of the University of California Academic Council Standardized Testing Task Force

The figures below are from the recently completed Report of the University of California Academic Council Standardized Testing Task Force. Note the large sample sizes.

Some remarks:

1. SAT and High School GPA (HSGPA) are both useful (and somewhat independent) predictors of college success. In terms of variance accounted for, we have the inequality:

SAT + HSGPA  >  SAT  >  HSGPA

There are some small deviations from this pattern, but it seems to hold overall. I believe that GPA has a relatively larger loading on conscientiousness (work ethic) than cognitive ability, with SAT the other way around. By combining the two we get more information than from either alone.

2. SAT and HSGPA are stronger predictors than family income or race. Within each of the family income or ethnicity categories there is substantial variation in SAT and HSGPA, with corresponding differences in student success. See bottom figure and combined model R^2 in second figure below; R^2 varies very little across family income and ethnic categories.







There is not much new here. In graduate admissions the undergraduate GPA and the GRE general + subject tests play a role similar to HSGPA and SAT. See GRE and SAT Validity.

See Correlation and Variance to understand better what the R^2 numbers above mean. R^2 ~ 0.26 means the correlation between predictor and outcome variable (e.g., freshman GPA) is R ~ 0.5 or so.

Test Preparation and SAT scores: "...combined effect of coaching on the SAT I is between 21 and 34 points. Similarly, extensive meta-analyses conducted by Betsy Jane Becker in 1990 and by Nan Laird in 1983 found that the typical effect of commercial preparatory courses on the SAT was in the range of 9-25 points on the verbal section, and 15-25 points on the math section."

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Steven Broglio on Concussions, Football and Informed Choice - Manifold Podcast #31



Steve and Corey talk with Steven Broglio, Director of the Michigan Concussion Center, about concussion risk, prevention and treatment. Broglio describes how the NCAA emerged from the deaths that almost led Theodore Roosevelt to outlaw college football. He also explains recent findings on CTE, why females may be at greater concussion risk, and why sleep is critical to avoiding long-term brain injury. They discuss how new rules probably make football safer and debate why New England is so down on kids playing football. Steve wonders whether skills are in decline now that some schools have eliminated “contact” in practices.

Steven Broglio (Faculty Profile)

Michigan Concussion Center

NeuroTrauma Research Laboratory

NCAA-DoD Grand Alliance: Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE)


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Robert Christy and Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP)


I always wondered who first worked out the theory of Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP) produced by nuclear weapons. That an EMP would result from a nuclear explosion was known from the beginning:
During the first United States nuclear test on 16 July 1945, electronic equipment was shielded because Enrico Fermi expected the electromagnetic pulse. The official technical history for that first nuclear test states, "All signal lines were completely shielded, in many cases doubly shielded. In spite of this many records were lost because of spurious pickup at the time of the explosion that paralyzed the recording equipment."[2] During British nuclear testing in 1952–1953, instrumentation failures were attributed to "radioflash", which was their term for EMP.
But it's far from obvious that: prompt gamma rays from the nuclear explosion lead to Compton effect ionization, and the resulting Compton current interacts with the Earth's magnetic field to produce coherent synchrotron radiation forming a dangerous EM pulse.



From Achieving the Rare: Robert F. Christy's Journey in Physics and Beyond:
During Cold War years in the 1950’s, a number of mysterious communication disruptions occurred. It was feared that the communications had been sabotaged in some way by the Soviet Union. Robert was at Caltech at the time, but was also a consultant for the Rand Corporation, and became aware of this phenomenon.

For years Robert had been outspoken in his opposition to atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and had put a good deal of effort into understanding the effects. At that time the U.S. was still performing atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons. One test involved exploding an atomic bomb at a very high altitude, roughly 20 miles.

It had been known that atomic bombs could sometimes cause problems with electronics in the vicinity, but it was Robert who single-handedly worked out the physics by which atomic explosions in the upper atmosphere would produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could have catastrophic effects on circuits on the ground at very great distances, and could thereby disrupt communications. He was thus the first to connect the disruption of communications with the high- altitude nuclear explosions. He wrote this up as a classified report. It should be noted, however, that the warning in this report did not prevent the U.S. from carrying out the very-high-altitude “Starfish Prime” test of 1962. In this test a 1.4 megaton bomb was exploded over the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 250 miles, causing electrical damage in Hawaii (about 900 miles away). The Soviets conducted similar high-altitude tests over Kazakhstan in the same year. These caused even more extensive damage since they were above an inhabited area rather than over the ocean.

The EMP effect of high-altitude atomic explosions is now widely known, but it was Robert Christy who first brought this phenomenon to the attention of the U.S. government. ...

[ See also articles by Longmire and Pfeffer. Perhaps the Soviets were ahead of Christy? Kompaneets, A. S., Radio Emission from an Atomic Explosion, Institute for Chemical Physics, Academy of Sciences, USSR, Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics (USSR), English translation in volume 35, 1538-1544 (December
1958); Original article in Russian in JETP, 8, 1076-1080 (1954). ]
The first implosion atomic bomb (Fat Man) was known as the Christy Gadget:
... the Los Alamos team discovered that the interface between the detonating explosives and the hollow sphere could become unstable and ruin the crushing power of the blast wave.

Dr. Christy, while studying implosion tests, realized that a solid core could be compressed far more uniformly, and he worked hard in the days that followed to convince his colleagues of its superiority. He succeeded, and the hollow core was replaced with one made of solid plutonium metal.

... Robert Frederick Christy was born May 14, 1916, in Vancouver and studied physics at the University of British Columbia. He was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, under J. Robert Oppenheimer, a leading theoretical physicist who became known as the father of the atomic bomb.

After completing his studies in 1941, Dr. Christy worked at the University of Chicago before being recruited to join the Los Alamos team when Oppenheimer became its scientific director.

After the war, Dr. Christy joined Caltech in theoretical physics and stayed at the university for the rest of his academic career, serving as a faculty chairman, vice president, provost (from 1970 to 1980) and acting president (1977-78). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Wuhan Coronavirus


The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak (see WHO resource) caused me to look back at a paper I wrote in 2003 with A. Zee. We were motivated at the time by the recent SARS outbreak. Some results in the paper may be relevant today.

For Wuhan coronovirus the important parameters such as R0 (average number of secondary cases caused by a single infected individual) and lethality are still to be determined.
Global Spread of Infectious Diseases (ArXiv)

S. Hsu, A. Zee

We develop simple models for the global spread of infectious diseases, emphasizing human mobility via air travel and the variation of public health infrastructure from region to region. We derive formulas relating the total and peak number of infections in two countries to the rate of travel between them and their respective epidemiological parameters.
From the conclusions:
One interesting conclusion from our models is that typical international mobility – the probability per unit time of international travel for a given infected individual, estimated at mi→j ∼ 10−5 per week – is still sufficiently small that a country with well-developed public health infrastructure (effectively, a negative eigenvalue λ) can resist an epidemic even when other more populous countries experience complete saturation. In the quasi-realistic simulation 1 (figures (1),(2)), of order 10^5 infections occur in country 2, even though the disease has swept completely through country 1. In reaching this conclusion, we kept the mobility parameter fixed during the outbreak, and did not assume any draconian quarantine on international travelers arriving in country 2. Such measures would reduce the number of infections in country 2 considerably. Of course, this conclusion assumes that the public health infrastructure in country 2 remains robust during the outbreak. In the nonlinear simulation 3 (figures (6), (7)), we see that a breakdown in the medical system can lead to grave consequences.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Barbara O’Brien on Race, Reform and Wrongful Conviction Rate Estimates



Our guest, Professor Barbara O’Brien, explains why we don’t know much about conviction error other than in murder cases. She explains factors that contribute to wrongful convictions, including mistaken cross-racial identification in sexual assault cases. Barbara also talks about the surprising frequency of “rain damage” to evidence rooms and why Texas leads the way in both executions and criminal justice reform. The two consider why having your death sentence commuted to life in prison means you are actually less likely to ever be released.

[ Note I was away when this episode was recorded so it's just Corey and Barbara. ]

Transcript

Barbara O'Brien (Faculty Profile)

The National Registry Of Exonerations



man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Certainties and Uncertainties in our Energy and Climate Futures: Steve Koonin



This is a recent (2019) talk which gives a good overview of current climate science. Speaker is Steve Koonin, formerly Undersecretary for Science, US Department of Energy (Obama administration), Caltech Provost and theoretical physicist.

See earlier post Epistemic Caution and Climate Change (including comments).

My own views (consistent, as far as I can tell, with what Steve says in the talk):
1. Evidence for recent warming (~1 degree C) is strong.

2. There exist previous eras of natural (non-anthropogenic) global temperature change of similar magnitude to what is happening now.

3. However, it is plausible that at least part of the recent temperature rise is due to increase of atmospheric CO2 due to human activity.

4. Climate models still have significant uncertainties. While the direct effect of CO2 IR absorption is well understood, second order effects like clouds, distribution of water vapor in the atmosphere, etc. are not under good control. The increase in temperature from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 is still uncertain to a factor of 2-3 and at the low range (e.g., 1.5 degree C) is not catastrophic. The direct effect of CO2 absorption is modest and at the low range (~1 degree C) of current consensus model predictions. Potentially catastrophic outcomes are due to second order effects that are not under good theoretical or computational control.

5. Even if a catastrophic outcome is only a low probability tail risk, it is prudent to explore technologies that reduce greenhouse gas production.

6. A Red Team exercise, properly done, would clarify what is certain and uncertain in climate science.

Simply stating these views can get you attacked by crazy people.
Please tell me what is implausible about the following scenario: IPCC latest report has as its central projection a ~1.5 degree C warming over the next decades, assuming CO2 production continues at current levels. During those decades, battery technology could improve by an order of magnitude, due to intense R&D efforts. Solar energy cost and efficiency could also improve significantly over the same period. If these technological advances are realized by, e.g., 2040, we could substantially decrease our carbon footprint without wholesale dislocation of the world economy. It seems that huge R&D investment (nevertheless totally negligible relative to GDP or, e.g., military spending) in alternative energy and storage technologies is a no brainer...

Koonin rebuts some criticisms of his talk.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Sebastian Junger: Meaning from War and Technological Isolation in America - Manifold #29



This conversation occurred just after President Trump withdrew US forces from Northern Syria. Steve, Corey and Sebastian debate ISIS and the Kurds. Sebastian argues that men who went to war after 9/11 wanted to experience communal masculinity, as their fathers and grandfathers had in Vietnam and WWII, a tradition dating back millennia. When they came home, they faced the isolation of affluent contemporary American society, leading to high rates of addiction, depression, and suicide. War veterans in less developed countries may be psychologically better off, supported by a more traditional social fabric.

Transcript

Sebastian Junger

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (Book)

War (Book)

Hell on Earth (Trailer)

Restrepo (Trailer)


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Zach Hambrick on Psychometrics and the Science of Expertise -- Manifold Podcast #28



MSU Psychology Professor Zach Hambrick joins Corey and Steve to discuss general cognitive ability, the science of personnel selection, and research on the development of skills and expertise. Is IQ really the single best predictor of job performance? Corey questions whether g is the best predictor across all fields and whether its utility declines at a certain skill level. What does the experience of the US military tell us about talent selection? Is the 10,000 hour rule for skill development valid? What happened to the guy who tried to make himself into a professional golfer through 10,000 hours of golf practice?

Transcript

Science of Expertise

Zach Hambrick (Faculty Profile)

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery

Project 100,000 (1960s DoD Program)

Test Validity Study Report (CLA)

The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Manifold #27 Bonus Content: Left and Right Student Bloggers at MSU

This is bonus content related to our interview with Professor Andrew Hartman, The Culture Wars Then and Now (Manifold Podcast #27).



Steve and Corey talk about political polarization and bias on campus with student editors of MSU’s dueling political blogs. The left-leaning students argue that the media has blown controversies over student politics out of proportion, while the conservative writers maintain that they do not feel comfortable expressing their views in many classes. Corey asks how beneficial is it to be white in America? Is the University as bastion of open debate no longer viable, especially in the current economic environment?

Transcript.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Rule Britannia


Dom has seized the controls, but now has to operate the giant robot.

This is a unique situation: someone who understands the power of modern technology, scientific decision-making, high cognitive ability, and high functioning organizations, has significant influence in the government of one of the great nations of the world.

Please consider applying for one of these positions. Dom is a special leader -- open to new ideas and to maverick personalities, loyal to his team, and a genuinely humble and good person.

This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a positive impact in the world.

High skill immigration is one of the priorities for the new UK government. You do not need to be a UK citizen or permanent resident to be considered for these positions.
...we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos...

There are many brilliant people in the civil service and politics. Over the past five months the No10 political team has been lucky to work with some fantastic officials. But there are also some profound problems at the core of how the British state makes decisions. This was seen by pundit-world as a very eccentric view in 2014. It is no longer seen as eccentric. ...

Now there is a confluence of: a) Brexit requires many large changes in policy and in the structure of decision-making, b) some people in government are prepared to take risks to change things a lot, and c) a new government with a significant majority and little need to worry about short-term unpopularity while trying to make rapid progress with long-term problems.

There is a huge amount of low hanging fruit — trillion dollar bills lying on the street — in the intersection of:
the selection, education and training of people for high performance,

the frontiers of the science of prediction data science,

AI and cognitive technologies (e.g Seeing Rooms, `authoring tools designed for arguing from evidence’, Tetlock/IARPA prediction tournaments that could easily be extended to consider ‘clusters’ of issues around themes like Brexit to improve policy and project management)

communication (e.g. Cialdini)

decision-making institutions at the apex of government.
We want to hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds to work in Downing Street with the best officials, some as spads and perhaps some as officials. If you are already an official and you read this blog and think you fit one of these categories, get in touch.

The categories are roughly:

Data scientists and software developers
Economists
Policy experts
Project managers
Communication experts
Junior researchers one of whom will also be my personal assistant
Weirdos and misfits with odd skills

[ Please click through and read the whole post on Dom's blog ]
See also Now it can be told: Dominic Cummings and the Conservative victory 2019.

Note Added: Some of the media takes on Dom's job ad are extremely uncharitable. They (and the people they quote) assume Dom is entirely naive about when mathematical and computational methods might be useful, and when they might not. I suggest these people study his other writing carefully. For example:
More important than technology is the mindset – the hard discipline of obeying Richard Feynman’s advice: ‘The most important thing is not to fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.’ They [quant types] were a hard floor on ‘fooling yourself’ and I empowered them to challenge everybody including me. They [quant types] saved me from many bad decisions even though they had zero experience in politics and they forced me to change how I made important decisions like what got what money. We either operated scientifically or knew we were not, which is itself very useful knowledge.
Does this sound like a person who does not understand both the strengths and limitations of data science, statistics, careful epistemology, etc. in modern politics? Underestimate him at your peril...


Thursday, January 02, 2020

Andrew Hartman: The Culture Wars Then and Now (Manifold Podcast #27)



Note: We've moved to a weekly release schedule (previously one per two weeks).

Steve and Corey talk to Andrew about his new introduction to his book The War for the Soul of America. While the left largely won the culture wars, the three wonder whether the pendulum has swung so far left that many liberals are alienated by today’s cultural norms.

Other topics: Was the left’s victory in the debate over the college curriculum pyrrhic? Is identity politics a necessary step in liberation or a problematic slide toward greater division, or both? Are current students too sensitive, and easily triggered, to take the fight to the Billionaire class?

Transcript

Andrew Hartman (Faculty Profile)

A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this program are those of the guest(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the hosts, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation, or Michigan State University.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year 2020


It's been a wonderful year and a wonderful decade. All the best to everyone :-)

Be of good cheer -- we will prevail !!!


A New Year's present to you, the documentary: Bill Evans Time Remembered.

"Truth and Beauty .. forget the rest."



You can watch the whole thing on Amazon Prime.


Bonus: from 1966, The Universal Mind of Bill Evans. I originally posted this video as a 2012 Christmas present to readers.



Best introspective bits about his development, improvisational ability, intellectual / analytical approach versus raw talent @30 min and thereafter.

Not bad for a heroin junkie (like Chet Baker: see earlier post Time After Time).

All About Jazz: ... He played an equal role with Miles Davis in composing Kind Of Blue, the top-selling jazz album ever, yet the association proved disastrous as Evans' shyness and pressures of the stage fed a drug addiction that led to his death in 1980. His intelligence allowed him to surpass other players with more raw talent and he inspired a rare cult-like following, but also endured critics who saw him as a fraudulent lightweight.

Evans is generally acknowledged as the most influential pianist since Bud Powell, and a primary influence on players such as Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. Many consider his Sunday At The Village Vanguard the best piano trio album ever and compositions such as "Waltz For Debby" are all-time standards. He is also credited with advancing harmonic and voicing structures, and pioneering modern trio format elements such as giving sidemen equal interplay during improvisations.

His career peaked early during the late 1950s and early 1960s, then went through a series of peaks and valleys for the rest of his life. The best of those latter periods were probably during the early 1970s and right before his death, although neither reached the pinnacle of his early days.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Bruno Maçães: China, Russia and the Future of Eurasia - Manifold Podcast #26



I really enjoyed this conversation. Previous posts on Bruno Maçães.

Originally from Portugal, Bruno Maçães earned a PhD in Political Science at Harvard under Harvey Mansfield, and served as Portugal’s Secretary of State for European Affairs from 2013-2015. He is regarded as a leading geopolitical thinker with deep insights concerning the future of Eurasia and relations between the West and China. He is the author of two widely acclaimed books published in 2018: The Dawn of Eurasia and Belt and Road.

Topics discussed include: China's Belt and Road Initiative, the Middle Income Trap, A Chinese World Order, Techno-Optimism in East and West, China-Russia alliance and geopolitics, the future of Eurasia and the EU.

Transcript

Russia to China: Together we can rule the World (Politico.eu)

Equilibrium Americanum (Berlin Policy Journal)

The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order


Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order

History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men 2019



When asked what I want for Christmas, I reply: Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men :-)

No one ever seems to recognize that this comes from the Bible (Luke 2.14).

Linus said it best in A Charlie Brown Christmas:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas!

Four years ago on Christmas day I shared the following story: Nativity 2050

For an update, see The Economist on Polygenic Risk Scores and Embryo Selection (November 2019).


And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Mary was born in the twenties, when the tests were new and still primitive. Her mother had frozen a dozen eggs, from which came Mary and her sister Elizabeth. Mary had her father's long frame, brown eyes, and friendly demeanor. She was clever, but Elizabeth was the really brainy one. Both were healthy and strong and free from inherited disease. All this her parents knew from the tests -- performed on DNA taken from a few cells of each embryo. The reports came via email, from GP Inc., by way of the fertility doctor. Dad used to joke that Mary and Elizabeth were the pick of the litter, but never mentioned what happened to the other fertilized eggs.

Now Mary and Joe were ready for their first child. The choices were dizzying. Fortunately, Elizabeth had been through the same process just the year before, and referred them to her genetic engineer, a friend from Harvard. Joe was a bit reluctant about bleeding edge edits, but Mary had a feeling the GP engineer was right -- their son had the potential to be truly special, with just the right tweaks ...

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Twilight Struggles in a Wilderness of Mirrors: Admiral Mike Rogers, the NSA, and Obama-era Political Spying


I believe that if the full story is told about Obama-era political spying, Admiral Mike Rogers (former head of NSA) will emerge as a hero. Sources say Rogers has been cooperating with the ongoing Durham investigation. Look for significant developments in the case as we approach the 2020 election...

Below is a Rogers timeline covering illegal spying using NSA data. This illegal use of data is a matter of record -- undisputed, but also largely unreported. The FISC (FISA court) report on this illegal use of data appeared in April 2017; the author is Rosemary Collyer, the head FISA judge. The report was originally classified Top Secret but was later declassified and released with redactions. Collyer uses the phrase "institutional lack of candor" when referring to behavior of federal agencies in their dealings with FISC over this issue.

Just this week, Collyer ordered the FBI to report on its abuse of FISA in surveillance of the Trump campaign, as documented in the Horowitz DOJ IG report.

More background on the earlier abuses here:
The court learned in October 2016 that analysts ... were conducting prohibited database searches “with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the court.” The forbidden queries were searches of Upstream Data using US-person identifiers. The report makes clear that as of early 2017 NSA Inspector General did not even have a good handle on all the ways that improper queries could be made to the system.
Timeline:
November 2015-April 2016 – The FBI and DOJ’s National Security Division (NSD) uses private contractors to access raw FISA information using “To” and “From” FISA-702(16) & “About” FISA-702(17) queries.

February 2016 NYT reports: Obama Administration Set to Expand Sharing of Data That N.S.A. Intercepts "The new system would permit analysts at other intelligence agencies to obtain direct access to raw information from the N.S.A.’s surveillance to evaluate for themselves."

March 2016 – NSA Director Rogers becomes aware of improper access to raw FISA data.

April 2016 – Rogers orders the NSA compliance officer to run a full audit on 702 NSA compliance.

April 18 2016 – Rogers shuts down FBI/NSD contractor access to the FISA Search System.

Mid-October 2016 – DNI Clapper submits a recommendation to the White House that Director Rogers be removed from the NSA.

October 20 2016 – Rogers is briefed by the NSA compliance officer on the Section 702 NSA compliance audit and “About” query violations.

October 21 2016 – Rogers shuts down all “About Query” activity. Rogers reports the activity to DOJ and prepares to go before the FISA Court.

October 21 2016 – DOJ & FBI seek and receive a Title I FISA probable cause order authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. At this point, the FISA Court is unaware of the Section 702 violations.

October 24 2016 – Rogers verbally informs the FISA Court of Section 702(17) violations.

October 26 2016 – Rogers formally informs the FISA Court of 702(17) violations in writing.

November 17 2016 (morning) – Rogers travels to meet President-Elect Trump and his Transition Team in Trump Tower. Rogers does not inform DNI James Clapper.

November 17 2016 (evening) – Trump Transition Team announces they are moving all transition activity to Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.
Parts of the timeline are from this 2018 article, which contains much more background. However, note that the events listed above are almost entirely a matter of public record now.

The 2017 FISC report does not reveal the exact nature of the abuses of NSA surveillance data, only that the abuses occurred, and in large volume. However, Rogers' behavior suggests very strongly that some of the abuses involved spying on political opposition.

Key issues:
Who were the FBI/DOJ contractors making the illegal queries? (Fusion GPS? Opposition research firms?)

Note that Upstream Data includes intercepts from the internet backbone -- essentially ALL of our communications pass through such channels and are potentially stored at NSA data centers.

Did FBI seek the Carter Page FISA warrant because earlier (illegal) access to NSA data was interrupted by Rogers?

What did Rogers reveal to the Trump transition team that caused them to move operations from Trump Tower to a golf course in New Jersey?

FBI had access not just to ongoing communications, but stored past communications (within "two hops") of Carter Page and other Trump campaign staff. They must have known very early on (it is suggested, by early 2017) that there was no Russian collusion. So what was the purpose of the Mueller investigation?
I believe Durham's investigation will be able to address many of these questions, although results may be classified and not shared with the public.

More fun facts: (Note I've always thought NSA the most competent and least political among CIA, FBI, NSA.)
James Clapper was the architect of the Russia Report – Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections. It was used to push the entire Russia Narrative...

The report was technically created by a joint effort between the CIA (former Director John Brennan), FBI (former Director James Comey) and the NSA (current Director Mike Rogers) – and assembled by the DNI (former Director James Clapper).

The joint report contains one significant caveat:

CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has only moderate confidence.

Rogers stated in Senate hearing testimony that his confidence did not reach even this threshold: "I wouldn’t call it a discrepancy, I’d call it an honest difference of opinion between three different organizations and in the end I made that call.…It didn’t have the same level of sourcing and the same level of multiple sources."

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Lies and Admissions: Spygate in light of the IG FISA report


Almost three years of hard work to bring the truth to light.
There was no spying   [ WE STARTED HERE ]

Okay, there was spying, but it was all legal

Some illegal things happened, but by mistake

A few bad apples did the illegal things   [ WE ARE HERE ]

Illegal spying was politically motivated and ordered from the top

Obama knew ???
No telling how far down the above list we will get, but:
Lisa Page (text to Peter Strzok 9/2/2016): POTUS wants to know everything we’re doing.
Cognitive dissonance can be painful. Learning can hurt.

Here are things you might have believed to be true (really?), but which have been debunked (e.g., by DOJ IG reports, sworn testimony, etc.):
ALL FALSE

The Steele Dossier has been verified [ FBI has known since early 2017 that it's junk, but failed to report primary source interview information undermining the dossier to FISA court. ]

The FISA applications did not depend primarily or extensively on the Steele Dossier [ Explicitly contradicted by IG Horowitz. ]

The FISA process is rigorous and was followed carefully [ See report ]

Carter Page is a Russian asset [ No, he was a CIA asset. CIA informed FBI about this but the FBI lied about it in the FISA application. This is a felony. ]

There was Russian collusion and the Mueller investigation will find it [HAHAHA]

There is no evidence of individual bias in FBI / DOJ spygate activity
[ Plentiful evidence of individual bias, so far no documentary or testimonial (IG terminology) evidence of institutional bias... Awaiting completion of Durham investigation. ] 
Please see the recent DOJ IG reports -- including the earlier one that reveals what happened to the Hillary emails on Anthony Weiner's laptop (hint, it's not what you think). If you don't want to read the reports that's fine -- just don't talk about the subject as if you know something. This compendium of excerpts from the latest IG report and quotes from Horowitz's testimony outlines some of the more serious findings.

Here's an excerpt from the latest IG report (p.188) that gives a sense what was known about the Steele dossier already in early 2017 from FBI interviews with Steele's Russian sources. None of this information made it into the multiple FISA renewal applications, the last one in June 2017.
The Primary Sub-source also informed WFO [Washington Field Office] Agent 1 that Steele tasked him/her after the 2016 U.S. elections to find corroboration for the election reporting and that the Primary Sub-source could find none. According to WFO Agent 1, during an interview in May 2017, the Primary Sub-source said the corroboration was "zero." The Primary Sub-source had reported the same conclusion to the Crossfire Hurricane team members who interviewed him/her in January 2017.
Regarding predication of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, note that DOJ IG Horowitz has very limited scope and powers of investigation -- all centered within DOJ/FBI. US Attorney John Durham has subpoena power and has reportedly interviewed people in the UK (Halper?) and Italy (Mifsud?) that the IG had no access to. Durham disagreed strongly with Horowitz's conclusion that the spying was properly predicated.

Horowitz's conclusion rests on the fragile thread of the Papadopoulos-Downer bar conversation, concerning information from Mifsud. It is very likely that Mifsud is a western intelligence asset, not a Russian asset. Who was behind Halper (known CIA asset) and Mifsud contacting individuals associated with the Trump campaign, beginning in early to mid 2016?

There are many earlier posts on this topic. See, for example, Deep State Update (May 2018):
... declassifying the first FISA application would show, as claimed by people like Chuck Grassley and Trey Gowdy, who have read the unredacted original, that it largely depends on the fake Steele Dossier, and that the application failed to conform to the required Woods procedures.

[ THIS IS NOW CONFIRMED BY THE IG REPORT ON FISA ABUSE. GRASSLEY, GOWDY, NUNES LARGELY CORRECT. SCHIFF NOT. ]

... the New York Times reported in December of last year that the FBI investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began when George Papadopoulos drunkenly boasted to an Australian diplomat about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was the disclosure of this episode by the Australians that “led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired,” the NYT claimed.

[ Horowitz accepts this interaction as the basis for "proper predication" of the counterintelligence spying on the Trump campaign. But see below... ]

But it now seems clear that Halper’s attempts to gather information for the FBI began before that. “The professor’s interactions with Trump advisers began a few weeks before the opening of the investigation, when Page met the professor at the British symposium,” the Post reported. While it’s not rare for the FBI to gather information before formally opening an investigation, Halper’s earlier snooping does call into question the accuracy of the NYT’s claim that it was the drunken Papadopoulos ramblings that first prompted the FBI’s interest in these possible connections. And it suggests that CIA operatives, apparently working with at least some factions within the FBI, were trying to gather information about the Trump campaign earlier than had been previously reported.

Hmm.. so what made CIA/FBI assign Halper to probe Trump campaign staffers in the first place? It seems the cover story for the start of the anti-Trump investigation needs some reformulation...

[ STAY TUNED ... WE CAN HOPE THAT DURHAM'S INVESTIGATION WILL SHED FURTHER LIGHT ON THIS. HOROWITZ HAS/HAD NO SCOPE TO PURSUE IT -- HIS CONCLUSIONS ON THIS SPECIFIC POINT ARE LIKELY TO BE SUPERSEDED BY DURHAM'S. SEE DURHAM PUBLIC STATEMENT. ]
US Attorney John Durham statement:
... our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department.

Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened ...
Video will start at 12:12 -- a very revealing 5m: Durham investigation, predication of Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation, political bias, open questions about CIA involvement prior to opening of Crossfire Hurricane Aug 31, 2016, etc.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Landau, Sakharov, and thermonuclear instabilities


Above, Lev Landau. See also F > L > P > S and Out on the Tail.

An incredible story from The World of Andrei Sakharov:
... Nonetheless, in the early 1950s, Landau worked on Sakharov’s assignments. True enough, that work was in computational mathematics, not theoretical physics. Odd “material evidence” of this appears in Landau’s Collected Works: placed between the 1958 article about fermions and the 1959 article about quantum field theory is the lecture “Numerical Methods of an Integration of Partial Equations by a Method of Grids.” It was published in 1958 but, as it indicates, describes the methods developed in 1951–1952.

When you look at the article’s unexciting formulas, it’s difficult to imagine what’s behind them. What’s behind them, among other things, is the first thermonuclear bomb in the world and the suicide of the head of the security department. ...

Landau’s group did the calculations for the 1949 A-bomb, for which he received an Order of Lenin and a Stalin Prize of the Second Degree.

Landau’s contribution to the hydrogen bomb was even greater, judging by the fact that he was awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor and a Stalin Prize of the First Degree. Landau’s group managed to complete the Sloyka calculations “by hand”; it was the problem akin to the one the Americans postponed until computers appeared. This required devising an entirely new method of calculation.

The processes of a thermonuclear explosion are much more complicated than an atomic one, if only because it includes the atomic one as its first step. Numerical calculations using old methods would have taken years, but the problem had to be solved in months, which ensured a new method needed to be found. However, while developing it at the Institute for Physical Problems, theorists found a serious mathematical problem—the stability of the calculations. Without solving it, they couldn’t be sure that the calculations, no matter how precise, would actually have any relationship to physical reality. The new method solved this problem. But the mathematics group directed by Andrei Tikhonov, which had been created in parallel as a failsafe, denied the problem’s very existence.

Dissent and discussion are common in science, but in this case the science was top secret and super-urgent. Beria could not wait for the problem to be resolved in a free exchange of ideas, so a meeting was convened under the chairmanship of Mstislav Keldysh, the future president of the Academy of Sciences. It lasted for several days and the discussions ended in an unusual way: based on Keldysh’s opinion, the top leadership gave the order regarding which interpretation was to be considered scientific truth—the top leadership was Nikolai Pavlov, the KGB general in charge of nuclear weapons development. And Tikhonov’s group switched to the new method of calculation.

The assignment for the Sloyka calculations sent to the Landau group was “a piece of graph paper, handwritten on both sides in green-blue ink, and it contained all the geometry and data of the first hydrogen bomb.”

[[ Sloyka = "layer cake" = early thermonuclear bomb design. ]]

This was possibly the most secret document in the Soviet project—and it could not be entrusted to any typist. After a mathematical assignment was prepared on the basis of this document at the Institute of Physical Problems, it was sent on to the Institute of Applied Mathematics where Tikhonov’s group worked. And the page disappeared there. Perhaps it was mistaken for a rough draft—it was a single handwritten page—and it was destroyed along with other drafts. But this action was not recorded, which is what led to the tragedy Sakharov describes:
The head of the Security Department from the Ministry—a man whose mere physical appearance, his stare from under drooping eyelids, elicited physical dread in me—came to investigate the extraordinary incident. Former head of Leningrad State Security during the so-called “Leningrad Affair,” when about 700 top leaders were executed there, he spent nearly an hour on Saturday with the head of Institute Security. The Institute official spent the next day, Sunday, with his family; they say he was cheerful and very affectionate with his children. He came to work on Monday 15 minutes early and shot himself before his co-workers arrived.

Andrei Sakharov with daughter, 1948.

Physicists can do stuff.

Feynman and Tukey (Working Memory); Dom and Brexit


I received this message over the weekend.
Dear Dr. Hsu,

With great interest I regularly read your excellent Information Processing Blog. With regard to your assessment of Dom Cummings' achievements I am at variance with yours. But I guess you will like the anecdote referring to Feynman.

I tried to comment directly on your blog but the whole procedure was somewhat cumbersome, so I mail my comment directly to you. Please feel free to post it at the comment section under my full name. See the comment attached.

I am a retired psychology prof from University of Mannheim, Germany specializing in intelligence research, research methodology, assessment and evaluation research.

Best regards
Werner W. Wittmann
The letter:
IQ makes the difference

If you want to learn more about what kind of difference differences in IQ make read the research of Dave Lubinski and Camilla Benbow what differences highly gifted youngsters accomplish after several decades. Dave makes their publications available at https://my.vanderbilt.edu/smpy/publications/david-lubinski/

But let me turn to a funnier anecdote for physicists like Steve Hsu

A 35 year gap:

Physicists are among the smartest high IQ people, there is no doubt. If you want a single case example take Richard Feynman. If we could have lured him to psychology an important concept probably would have been published 35 years earlier.

In 1939 Feynman as a graduate student at Princeton experimented just for fun together with his friend John Tukey (who later became the famous statistician) to assess the ability of measuring time by counting.(Gleick,1992) They run stairs up and down to accelerate their heartbeats and trained themselves at the same time to count seconds and steps. Feynman’s performance deteriorated when he talked but not when he read. Tukey instead performed well when he recited poems aloud and worse when he read. So both have detected what is now known as the two slave systems of working memory, namely the phonological loop and the visuo-spatial sketchpad. Now you get a feeling how much more psychology would have been advanced if brains like theirs had been invested in my discipline at that time.

As a true and convinced European I am really sorry that the English left us, the Scots and the Northern-Irish didn’t want it and maybe one day the fame of tearing the United Kingdom into parts goes to Cummings as well?

What I would say to Cummings:

“If a thing is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.” ― John W. Tukey

But he did it and now…

Boris Johnson probably to Cummings: “The moor has pled guilty the moor can go” ?

References:
Gleick,J.(1992) Genius. The life and science of Richard Feynman. New York: Pantheon Books. 
Lubinski, D., Benbow, C.P., & Kell, H.J. (2014). Life paths and accomplishments of mathematically precocious males and females four decades later. Psychological Science, 25, 2217–2232.

From Wikipedia about Working Memory 
In 1974, Baddeley and Hitch[11] introduced the multicomponent model of working memory. The theory proposed a model containing three components: the central executive, the phonological loop, and the visuospatial sketchpad with the central executive functioning as a control center of sorts, directing info between the phonological and visuospatial components.[12] The central executive is responsible inter alia for directing attention to relevant information, suppressing irrelevant information and inappropriate actions, and coordinating cognitive processes when more than one task is simultaneously performed. A "central executive" is responsible for supervising the integration of information and for coordinating "slave systems" that are responsible for the short-term maintenance of information. One slave system, the phonological loop (PL), stores phonological information (that is, the sound of language) and prevents its decay by continuously refreshing it in a rehearsal loop. It can, for example, maintain a seven-digit telephone number for as long as one repeats the number to oneself again and again.[13] The other slave system, the visuospatial sketchpad, stores visual and spatial information. It can be used, for example, for constructing and manipulating visual images and for representing mental maps. The sketchpad can be further broken down into a visual subsystem (dealing with such phenomena as shape, colour, and texture), and a spatial subsystem (dealing with location).

Re: Brexit, see these remarks from Now it can be told: Dominic Cummings and the Conservative victory 2019
I don't know enough to have a high confidence or high conviction opinion concerning Brexit. Intelligent and thoughtful people disagree strongly over whether it is a good idea or a potential disaster.

Nevertheless, I can admire Dom's effectiveness as a political strategist and chief advisor to the Prime Minister. I do know him well enough to state with high confidence that his intentions are idealistic, not selfish, and that he (someone who has spent decades thinking about UK government, foreign policy, relations with Europe) sincerely thinks Brexit is in the best interests of the British people. Dom has deeper insights and better intuition about these issues than I do!

Being a rationalist, Dom has pointed out on his own blog that it is impossible to know with high confidence what the future implications of most political decisions are... In that sphere one cannot avoid decision making under extreme uncertainty.
The epistemically careful may end up like Zhou Enlai. When asked about consequences of the French Revolution, the late premier is reported to have said: Too early to tell. If pressed for an opinion, be prepared to find that thoughtful people can disagree...

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