Sunday, October 25, 2020

David Goldman (Spengler): China's Plan to Sino-Form the World



The latest from the always entertaining David Goldman, who writes (wrote?) the Spengler column at Asia Times.
 

In the lecture below, Goldman summarizes the main themes of his new book You Will Be Assimilated: China’s Plan to Sino-Form the World.

 


In this next interview (on the China-Iran deal of summer 2020) Goldman drops his guard a bit and waxes poetic with anti-Chinese rhetoric, as he discusses Israel, Iran, and China.

He refers to the Chinese (speaking broadly) as philo-semitic, but then jokes that this means anti-semites who like jews! In light of that remark I wonder how one should characterize Goldman's views on China and the Chinese: philo-sinic or just plain anti-Chinese?

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Composite Polygenic Risk Score predicts longevity

The paper below (senior author at Johns Hopkins University) builds a composite polygenic risk score for mortality (longevity). Outliers (top vs bottom 5%) differ by about 5 years in life expectancy. 

I expect longevity prediction to improve considerably with more and better data to analyze. See also Live Long and Prosper: Genetic Architecture of Complex Traits and Disease Risk Predictors:
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 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.

If I read the graph below correctly, in their late 70s a positive outlier (male) has ~90% chance of surviving the year, wherease for a negative outlier the odds are only ~75%.
Combined Utility of 25 Disease and Risk Factor Polygenic Risk Scores for Stratifying Risk of All-Cause Mortality 
Allison Meisner, Prosenjit Kundu, Yan Dora Zhang, Lauren V. Lan, Sungwon Kim, Disha Ghandwani, Parichoy Pal Choudhury, Sonja I. Berndt, Neal D. Freedman, Montserrat Garcia-Closas, Nilanjan Chatterjee 
doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.13.20035527 
The American Journal of Human Genetics doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.07.002 
While genome-wide association studies have identified susceptibility variants for numerous traits, their combined utility for predicting broad measures of health, such as mortality, remains poorly understood. We used data from the UK Biobank to combine polygenic risk scores (PRS) for 13 diseases and 12 mortality risk factors into sex-specific composite PRS (cPRS). These cPRS were moderately associated with all-cause mortality in independent data: the estimated hazard ratios per standard deviation were 1.10 (95% confidence interval: 1.05, 1.16) and 1.15 (1.10, 1.19) for women and men, respectively. Differences in life expectancy between the top and bottom 5% of the cPRS were estimated to be 4.79 (1.76, 7.81) years and 6.75 (4.16, 9.35) years for women and men, respectively. These associations were substantially attenuated after adjusting for non-genetic mortality risk factors measured at study entry. The cPRS may be useful in counseling younger individuals at higher genetic risk of mortality on modification of non-genetic factors.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Replications of Height Genomic Prediction: Harvard, Stanford, 23andMe

These are two replications of our 2017 height prediction results (also recently validated using sibling data) that I neglected to blog about previously.

1. Senior author Liang is in the Deptartments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Harvard.
Efficient cross-trait penalized regression increases prediction accuracy in large cohorts using secondary phenotypes 
Wonil Chung, Jun Chen, Constance Turman, Sara Lindstrom, Zhaozhong Zhu, Po-Ru Loh, Peter Kraft and Liming Liang 
Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 569 (2019) 
We introduce cross-trait penalized regression (CTPR), a powerful and practical approach for multi-trait polygenic risk prediction in large cohorts. Specifically, we propose a novel cross-trait penalty function with the Lasso and the minimax concave penalty (MCP) to incorporate the shared genetic effects across multiple traits for large-sample GWAS data. Our approach extracts information from the secondary traits that is beneficial for predicting the primary trait based on individual-level genotypes and/or summary statistics. Our novel implementation of a parallel computing algorithm makes it feasible to apply our method to biobank-scale GWAS data. We illustrate our method using large-scale GWAS data (~1M SNPs) from the UK Biobank (N = 456,837). We show that our multi-trait method outperforms the recently proposed multi-trait analysis of GWAS (MTAG) for predictive performance. The prediction accuracy for height by the aid of BMI improves from R2 = 35.8% (MTAG) to 42.5% (MCP + CTPR) or 42.8% (Lasso + CTPR) with UK Biobank data.


2. This is a 2019 Stanford paper. Tibshirani and Hastie are famous researchers in statistics and machine learning. Figure is from their paper.


A Fast and Flexible Algorithm for Solving the Lasso in Large-scale and Ultrahigh-dimensional Problems 
Junyang Qian, Wenfei Du, View ORCID ProfileYosuke Tanigawa, Matthew Aguirre, Robert Tibshirani, Manuel A. Rivas, Trevor Hastie 
1Department of Statistics, Stanford University 2Department of Biomedical Data Science, Stanford University 
Since its first proposal in statistics (Tibshirani, 1996), the lasso has been an effective method for simultaneous variable selection and estimation. A number of packages have been developed to solve the lasso efficiently. However as large datasets become more prevalent, many algorithms are constrained by efficiency or memory bounds. In this paper, we propose a meta algorithm batch screening iterative lasso (BASIL) that can take advantage of any existing lasso solver and build a scalable lasso solution for large datasets. We also introduce snpnet, an R package that implements the proposed algorithm on top of glmnet (Friedman et al., 2010a) for large-scale single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) datasets that are widely studied in genetics. We demonstrate results on a large genotype-phenotype dataset from the UK Biobank, where we achieve state-of-the-art heritability estimation on quantitative and qualitative traits including height, body mass index, asthma and high cholesterol.

The very first validation I heard about was soon after we posted our paper (2018 IIRC): I visited 23andMe to give a talk about genomic prediction and one of the PhD researchers there said that they had reproduced our results, presumably using their own data. At a meeting later in the day, one of the VPs from the business side who had missed my talk in the morning was shocked when I mentioned few cm accuracy for height. He turned to one of the 23andMe scientists in the room and exclaimed 

I thought WE were the best in the world at this stuff!?

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Down the Rabbit Hole: Mark Lane, the Zapruder film, and the JFK Conspiracy

Putting these here for future reference. From comments:
At minimum the evidence is strong for a CIA JFK coverup -- see last video, for example. It doesn't mean they did it, ofc. Johnson pressured Warren to lead the commission with the argument that if the public became convinced the Soviets/Cubans were behind it WW3 would result. This could have affected CIA actions post-Dallas as well. But I suspect something more sinister on the part of certain elements of CIA, and there is tons of evidence to that effect leaking out over the years. 
I enjoy listening to Mark Lane speak even if he turns out to be incorrect in some or many of his allegations. I think he destroys Buckley in their debate: Lane the Rationalist and Buckley a good example of motivated or biased reasoning. 
I've followed Spygate for 4 years now, with the media covering it up and FBI/CIA refusing to produce documents, Barr probably acting to protect the institutions, FISA court obviously corrupt, etc. The JFK matter has a very familiar feel to it. [ Should add the Epstein matter, which unfolded in plain sight over 20y, as another example. ]
Mark Lane, at the peak of his powers, discusses the Warren Commission report with William F. Buckley (1966):

   

 Mark Lane, near the end of his life:

    


Astonishing 2014 claims about the Zapruder film in CIA hands in the days after Dallas: the creation of two different briefing boards, one seen by CIA director John McCone, the other given to the Warren Commission. The interview is remarkable.

 

Horne and Brugioni strike me as very credible. CIA NPIC's main activity was interpreting U2 spy plane photographs, and had some of the most advanced photographic technology of the era. They were a logical choice to have a first look at the Zapruder film, but Brugioni did not learn until decades later that the CIA modified the film (removing certain frames, esp. near #313 which shows Kennedy's head exploding) and only gave a full briefing to McCone while witholding information from the Warren Commission. 
While serving as chief analyst of military records at the Assassination Records Review Board in 1997, Douglas Horne discovered that the Zapruder Film was examined by the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center two days after the assassination of President Kennedy. 
In this film, Horne interviews legendary NPIC photo interpreter Dino Brugioni, who speaks for the first time about another NPIC examination of the film the day after the assassination. Brugioni didn't know about the second examination and believes the Zapruder Film in the archives today is not the film he saw the day after the assassination.

Bonus: Interview with son of E. Howard Hunt (CIA, convicted Watergate Plumber), including audio of Hunt's confession. Note link to Cord Meyer, also see Mary Meyer 1964 execution in Georgetown...


James Jesus Angleton -- "A Wilderness of Mirrors"

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Election 2020: quant analysis of new party registrations vs actual votes

I think we should ascribe very high uncertainty to polling results in this election, for a number of reasons including the shy Trump voter effect as well as the sampling corrections applied which depend heavily on assumptions about likely turnout. 

Graphs below are from a JP Morgan quant analysis of changes in number of registered voters by party and state, and the correlation with actual votes in subsequent election. Of course it is possible that negative covid impact has largely counteracted the effect discussed below (which is an integrated effect over the last 4 years) -- i.e., Trump was in a strong position at the beginning of 2020 but has declined since then. 

This is an unusual election for a number of reasons so it's quite hard to call the outcome. There's also a good chance the results on election night will be heavily contested.

The author of this analysis is Marko Kolanovic, Global Head of Macro Quantitative and Derivatives Strategy at J.P. Morgan. He graduated from New York University with a PhD in theoretical high-energy physics.

Anyone with high conviction about the election is welcome to post their analysis in the comments.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

US and China: A New Cold War (video interview with Lanxin Xiang)

 

This is an excellent discussion of the US-China geopolitical situation with Professor Lanxin Xiang. Xiang was trained at SAIS (JHU PhD), and currently holds an academic position in Geneva while directing a research institute in Shanghai.

He has a uniquely deep understanding of both Western and Chinese perspectives on globalization, economic development, US-China competition. 

Interestingly, he recently translated Skidelsky's biography of Keynes.

Two related articles in Asia Times by the Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar:





Bonus: Bill Owens interview. See comments about Huawei at ~50m.

 

Wikipedia: William A. Owens (born May 8, 1940) is a retired admiral of the United States Navy and who served as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1994 to 1996.[1][2] Since leaving the military in 1996, he served as an executive or as a member of the board of directors of various companies, including Nortel Networks Corporation.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Othram Solves 1974 Cold Case: Carla Walker Murder


Othram, a DNA forensics company I co-founded, has solved another cold case. 


Carla Walker of Fort Worth TX was tortured, raped, and murdered in 1974. Finally the killer has been identified and arrested.



This was an open and high profile case just a few months ago. See this April 2020 episode of The DNA of Murder (Oxygen channel), hosted by Paul Holes, the detective who caught the Golden State Killer.

Who Killed Carla Walker? In 1974, 17-year-old Carla Walker’s reported abduction out of the arms of her boyfriend sent a Texas town on a massive manhunt. She was discovered murdered in a culvert three days later. Paul Holes interviews the only witness, Carla’s boyfriend. 
Walker and her boyfriend, Western Hills High School football quarterback Rodney McCoy, attended a Valentine’s dance on Feb. 16, 1974. After the dance, they met up with friends and then stopped by a Fort Worth bowling alley. 
McCoy has always maintained that a man approached the couple while they were sitting inside his car at the bowling alley parking lot and pointed a gun at him. He was beaten unconscious, and when he awoke, he found his cheerleader girlfriend missing.

 



See Othram: the future of DNA forensics

The existing FBI standard (CODIS) for DNA identification uses only 20 markers (STRs -- previously only 13 loci were used!). By contrast, genome wide sequencing can reliably call millions of genetic variants. 

For the first time, the cost curves for these two methods have crossed: modern sequencing costs no more than extracting CODIS markers using the now ~30 year old technology. 

What can you do with millions of genetic markers? 

1. Determine relatedness of two individuals with high precision. This allows detectives to immediately identify a relative (ranging from distant cousin to sibling or parent) of the source of the DNA sample, simply by scanning through large DNA databases. ...

If you have contacts in law enforcement, please alert them to the potential of this new technology.

Genomic Prediction and Embryo Selection (video panel discussion)

 


This is a recent panel discussion on genomic prediction, and applications in IVF and health systems (e.g., early screening of high risk individuals for breast cancer, heart disease). 

Jamie Metzl and Simon Fishel are my co-panelists. Metzl is the author of the best seller Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity. Fishel was part of the team that produced the first IVF baby in 1978, and has been a leader in IVF research ever since. 

Today millions of babies are produced through IVF. In most developed countries roughly 3-5 percent of all births are through IVF, and in Denmark the fraction is about 10 percent! But when the technology was first introduced with the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, the pioneering scientists had to overcome significant resistance. There may be an alternate universe in which IVF was not allowed to develop, and those millions of children were never born.
Wikipedia: ...During these controversial early years of IVF, Fishel and his colleagues received extensive opposition from critics both outside of and within the medical and scientific communities, including a civil writ for murder.[16] Fishel has since stated that "the whole establishment was outraged" by their early work and that people thought that he was "potentially a mad scientist".[17]
I predict that within 5 years the use of polygenic risks scores will become common in some health systems and in IVF. Reasonable people will wonder why the technology was ever controversial at all, just as in the case of IVF.

Previous discussion: Sibling Validation of Polygenic Risk Scores and Complex Trait Prediction (Nature Scientific Reports)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Feynman on AI

Thanks to a reader for sending the video to me. The first clip is of Feynman discussing AI, taken from the longer 1985 lecture in the second video.

There is not much to disagree with in his remarks on AI. He was remarkably well calibrated and would not have been very surprised by what has happened in the following 35 years, except that he did not anticipate (at least, does not explicitly predict) the success that neural nets and deep learning would have for the problem that he describes several times as "pattern recognition" (face recognition, fingerprint recognition, gait recognition). Feynman was well aware of early work on neural nets, through his colleague John Hopfield.  [1] [2] [3]

I was at Caltech in 1985 and this is Feynman as I remember him. To me, still a teen ager, he seemed ancient. But his mind was marvelously active! As you can see from the talk he was following the fields of AI and computation rather closely. Of course, he and other Manhattan project physicists were present at the creation. They had to use crude early contraptions for mechanical calculation in bomb design computations. Thus, the habit of reducing a complex problem (whether in physics or machine learning) to primitive operations was second nature. Already for kids of my generation it was not second nature -- we grew up with early "home computers" like the Apple II and Commodore, so there was a black box magic aspect already to programming in high level languages. Machine language was useful for speeding up video games, but not everyone learned it. The problem is even worse today: children first encounter computers as phones or tablets that already seem like magic. The highly advanced nature of these devices discourages them from trying to grasp the underlying first principles.  

If I am not mistaken the t-shirt he is wearing is from the startup Thinking Machines, which built early parallel supercomputers.

Just three years later he was gone. The finely tuned neural connections in his brain -- which allowed him to reason with such acuity and communicate with such clarity still in 1985 -- were lost forever.



Monday, September 21, 2020

Foreign Observers of US Empire

Four recommended discussions, with perspectives largely absent from US media and establishment sources. 

1. US, Russia, China, Iran: Geopolitics and Realpolitik, discussed by a former UK diplomat, a professor at Tehran University, and a Brazilian journalist who covers Eurasia, living in Thailand.

   


2. Carl Zha, Caltech alumnus and China watcher. TikTok, WeChat, Huawei, semiconductors. The insidious role of US intelligence agencies in the tech war. Part 2.

      


3. Columbia economic historian Adam Tooze: World Order, Then And Now, ChinaTalk Podcast. Among other topics: State Capitalism, or National Socialism? Why Carl Schmitt is widely studied among Chinese intellectuals. The US won the cold war in Europe, but perhaps not in Asia...  More Tooze


4. The New Great Game: Bruno Maçães and diplomat, writer and former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon discuss Asia’s search for a constructive new equilibrium in the wake of growing tensions between China and its neighbours.

 


Bonus! Energy, Geopolitics, And The New Map: A Book Talk With Daniel Yergin.

 

Manhattan Institute: 

The shale revolution brought about not only an American competitive advantage in the global oil and gas market, but also an entirely new geopolitical dynamic. Energy is the bedrock of every industrial economy, and even minor shifts in production and prices have had resounding impacts on international diplomacy. 

Today, the global energy landscape differs drastically from a decade ago. The U.S. now leads the world in oil production thanks to fracking, and the world is reacting. But even as Russia pivots to China, and Middle Eastern producers try to recalibrate, every oil-producing country faces the same questions about the future of energy: Will renewable energy reign? And how will international relationships fare with this new map? These issues will become even more controversial during the presidential campaigns.

See also Remarks on the Decline of American Empire for earlier discussion of the impact of fracking on geopolitics.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

When Machine Learning Met Genetic Engineering | CogX 2019 (video)

 

I recently came across this video on YouTube. 

Hard to believe it's been over a year since the conference. 2020 versions of these meetings were all killed by the pandemic.



I'm in London again to give the talk below and attend some meetings, including Founders Forum and their Healthtech event the day before.
CogX: The Festival of AI and Emerging Technology
King's Cross, London, N1C 4BH

When Machine Learning Met Genetic Engineering

3:30 pm Tuesday June 11 Cutting Edge stage

Speakers

Stephen Hsu
Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation
Michigan State University

Helen O’Neill
Lecturer in Reproductive and Molecular Genetics
UCL

Martin Varsavsky
Executive Chairman
Prelude Fertility

Azeem Azhar (moderator)
Founder
Exponential View

Regent's Canal, Camden Town near King's Cross.





CogX speakers reception, Sunday evening:



HealthTech


Commanding heights of global capital:



Sunset, Camden locks:


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Schrodinger's Cat and the Normaliens


Yesterday I had cause to look something up related to macroscopic superposition states ("Schrodinger cat states") in Serge Haroche's book Exploring the Quantum. Curiosity led me to Haroche's 2012 Nobel Lecture and autobiography, which I found fascinating. 

One wonders how long an elitist, highly meritocratic and undeniably productive system like the French Grandes Ecoles can continue to function in the current political climate. Quel dommage.
... I was fascinated by astronomy and by calculus, the notion of derivatives and simple differential equations which describe so directly and so well the laws of dynamics obeyed by moving bodies. This was the time of the first artificial satellites, the sputniks which orbited the earth and launched the American-Soviet race to the moon. 
I marveled at the fact that I was able, with the elementary calculus I knew, to compute the escape velocity of rockets, the periods of satellites on their orbits and the gravitational field at the surface of all the planets … I understood then that nature obeys mathematical laws, a fact that did not cease to astonish me. I knew, from that time on, that I wanted to be a scientist. For that, I embarked in the strenuous and demanding “classes préparatoires” of the famed Lycée Louis-Le-Grand, one of the preparatory schools which train the best French students for the contest examinations leading to the “Grandes Ecoles.” They are the engineering and academic schools, which since the French Revolution, have formed the scientific elite of France. These were two years of intensive study where I learned a lot of math and of classical physics. I eventually was admitted in 1963 to the Ecole Polytechnique (ranking first in the national examination, to the great pride of my parents) and at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS). I chose to enter the latter because, at that time, it offered a much better opportunity to embark in a scientist career. 
The years as a student at ENS (1963–1967) have left me wonderful memories, contrasting sharply with the strenuous training of the preparatory school. Here, in the middle of the Latin Quarter, I was free to organize my time as I wished, to meet and discuss with students working in all kinds of fields in science or humanities and to enjoy all the distractions and cultural activities Paris has to offer. And I was paid for that, since the “Normaliens” as the ENS students are called, are considered civil servants and receive a generous stipend! These were my formative years as a scientist. Coming so to speak from the physics of the 19th century which was taught in the classes préparatoires, I was immediately thrown into modern physics and the quantum world by the classes of exceptional teachers. Alfred Kastler gave us a lyrical description of the dance of atomic kinetic moments, and gave atoms and photons a near poetic existence. Jean Brossel brought us back to Earth by describing the great experiments thanks to which quantum concepts were established, instilling in us the austere passion for precision. And Claude Cohen-Tannoudji revealed the theory’s formalism to us with extraordinary depth and clarity. I still remember three books I read avidly at the time: Quantum Mechanics by Albert Messiah, where I truly understood the depth and beauty of the quantum theory; Principlesof Nuclear Magnetism by Anatole Abragam, who introduced me to the subtle world of atomic magnetic moments; and Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, which was a revelation.
See also 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Orwell: 1944, 1984, and Today

George Orwell 1944 Letter foreshadows 1984, and today:
... Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, i.e. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark. Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history. He can’t say that two and two are five, because for the purposes of, say, ballistics they have to make four. But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the fuhrer wished it. That, so far as I can see, is the direction in which we are actually moving ... 
... intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.
I am sure any reader can provide examples of the following from the "news" or academia or even from a national lab:
there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted  
the exact sciences are endangered  
two and two could become five
dictatorial methods ... systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. It takes only a generation for costly lessons to be entirely forgotten...


Wikipedia: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko ...Soviet agronomist and biologist. Lysenko was a strong proponent of soft inheritance and rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of pseudoscientific ideas termed Lysenkoism.[1][2] In 1940, Lysenko became director of the Institute of Genetics within the USSR's Academy of Sciences, and he used his political influence and power to suppress dissenting opinions and discredit, marginalize, and imprison his critics, elevating his anti-Mendelian theories to state-sanctioned doctrine. 
Soviet scientists who refused to renounce genetics were dismissed from their posts and left destitute. Hundreds if not thousands of others were imprisoned. Several were sentenced to death as enemies of the state, including the botanist Nikolai Vavilov. Scientific dissent from Lysenko's theories of environmentally acquired inheritance was formally outlawed in the Soviet Union in 1948. As a result of Lysenkoism and forced collectivization, 15-30 million Soviet and Chinese citizens starved to death in the Holodomor and the Great Chinese Famine. ...

 

In 1964, physicist Andrei Sakharov spoke out against Lysenko in the General Assembly of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR: "He is responsible for the shameful backwardness of Soviet biology and of genetics in particular, for the dissemination of pseudo-scientific views, for adventurism, for the degradation of learning, and for the defamation, firing, arrest, even death, of many genuine scientists."

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Adam Tooze: American Power in the Long 20th Century

  


London Review of Books (LRB) lecture:
The history of American power, as it is commonly written, is a weighty subject, a matter of military and economic heft, of ‘throw-weight’, of resource mobilisation and material culture, of ‘boots on the ground’. In his lecture, Adam Tooze examines an alternative, counterintuitive vision of America, as a power defying gravity. This image gives us a less materialistic, more fantastical and more unstable vision of America’s role in the world.
The Q&A at 1h03min is probably the best (at least most concise) part of the talk. I don't find the Geithner anecdote quite as important / symbolic as Tooze does. Geithner is expressing the point that financial markets and economies are heavily affected by animal spirits, investor confidence, etc. Geithner understands well how much the power of central banks depends on purely psychological multiplier effects.

From a YouTube comment, this outline:
1:10 - Tim Geithner; U.S. Treasury: America had been “defying gravity" 
5:50 - U.S. was the “gravity” of world 
11:07 - U.S. is now also subject to the “gravity” of world 
13:28 - 100 years of 9 historic U.S. events; Overview 
14:44 - Adam Tooze; Historian “Ordering rather than Order, and the Disordering effects of efforts at Ordering.” 
16:28 - Start at the beginning of 1800’s 
17:12 - 1898 U.S. Imperialist power 
17:50 - 1916 U.S. Globalist power 
18:47 - Woodrow Wilson; U.S. President 
22:46 - 1920s Republican domestic priority of Financial Austerity and Tax cuts. 
25:59 - Great American Financial shocks/panics; 1857, 1873, 1893, 1896, 1907, 1920, 1929 26:49 - 1920s Great Depression 
27:18 - 1930s U.S. Hyper militaristic power 
31:51 - World War 2; One World, One War (1942) 
33:48 - Post World War 2, Bretton Woods economic conference. 
36:24 - Marshall Plan not the same as Bretton Woods... 
41:10 - Cold War: Asia 
43:30 - U.S. President Nixon abandons the Gold peg in 1971. Which results in inflation in G7 countries and Switzerland. 
44:10 - Keynesian era 50s to 60s. Start of Neoliberalism or the Paul Volcker shock 1979. 
45:07 - Cold War: Europe 1980s, Reagan & Gorbachev 
47:13 - Concluding phase of the talk 
1:01:56 - Challenges in 2019 and going forward; China and Climate Change 
1:03:20 - Q&A
Also recommended: Tooze on US-China geopolitical competition (August 6 2020 Sinica podcast). This discussion focuses more on the present and future than the past and may be of more interest to readers.


This conversation with Tyler Cowen is excellent, with more focus on Europe.



This is part 3 of a discussion at the Paris School of Economics. Thomas Piketty is on the panel and his remarks are in part 2, following Tooze's presentation in part 1. I recommend part 3 as the most interesting. Topics covered include MMT, inequality, central banks, current sources of systemic risk. Note this discussion took place before the Covid19 pandemic. Tooze mentions individual hedge fund compensation in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. Typically in such cases a big chunk of this compensation is really returns from the individual's own net worth which is co-invested with the fund. So it's not directly comparable to other forms of compensation, such as salary or bonus.


Friday, August 28, 2020

PRC ASBM Test in South China Sea

 

This is an interesting discussion of PRC Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM), including the DF21, DF26, and DF17 systems. You can set the captions to English if necessary. (Google realtime speech to text and translation have improved significantly in the last year or so.)

In response to US activity in the South China Sea and elsewhere, PRC recently conducted a test of DF21 and DF26 in the open ocean. Reportedly, a US "Cobra Ball" RC135S missile intelligence aircraft was present to monitor the activity. 



The YouTube video discusses PRC ASBM capabilities, including 

1. Infrared and radar final targeting
2. Maneuver capability
3. Capability of the missile to receive (ground based) over-the-horizon radar and satellite information while in flight. 

These are the frequent subject of speculation in Western sources: "There is a long kill chain and we are not sure whether it is operational..." etc.

Assuming that PRC ASBM have these capabilities, which seems quite plausible to me, this test was presumably a demonstration for the US, to make sure that our military appreciates the PLARF ability to hit a moving target (e.g., US aircraft carrier) at sea. Once this mutual understanding is in place, FONOPs in the South China Sea become mere theatrics for the dim witted.

See related posts

The Future of the U.S. Aircraft Carrier: Fearsome Warship or Expensive Target? (Heritage panel; video) 


Machine intelligence threatens overpriced aircraft carriers (first principles analysis of final targeting problem)

A2AD fait accompli? (Yaogan satellite surveillance of the western Pacific)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Inheritors and The Grisly Folk: H.G. Wells and William Golding on Neanderthals

Some time ago I posted about The Grisly Folk by H.G. Wells, an essay on Neanderthals and their encounters with modern humans. See also The Neanderthal Problem, about the potential resurrection of early hominids via genomic technology, and the associated ethical problems. 

The Grisly Folk: ... Many and obstinate were the duels and battles these two sorts of men fought for this world in that bleak age of the windy steppes, thirty or forty thousand years ago. The two races were intolerable to each other. They both wanted the eaves and the banks by the rivers where the big flints were got. They fought over the dead mammoths that had been bogged in the marshes, and over the reindeer stags that had been killed in the rutting season. When a human tribe found signs of the grisly folk near their cave and squatting place, they had perforce to track them down and kill them; their own safety and the safety of their little ones was only to be secured by that killing. The Neandertalers thought the little children of men fair game and pleasant eating. ...

William Golding was inspired by Wells to write The Inheritors (his second book, after Lord of the Flies), which is rendered mostly (until the end, at which point the perspective is reversed) from the Neanderthal point of view. Both Wells and Golding assume that Neanderthals were not as cognitively capable as modern humans, but Golding's primitives are peaceful quasi-vegetarians, quite unlike the Grisly Folk of Wells.



The Inheritors 
Golding considered this his finest novel and it is a beautifully realised tale about the last days of the Neanderthal people and our fear of the ‘other’ and the unfamiliar. The action is revealed through the eyes of the Neanderthals whose peaceful world is threatened by the emergence of Homo sapiens. 
The struggle between the simple Neanderthals and the malevolent modern humans ends in helpless despair ... 
From the book jacket: "When the spring came the people - what was left of them - moved back by the old paths from the sea. But this year strange things were happening, terrifying things that had never happened before. Inexplicable sounds and smells; new, unimaginable creatures half glimpsed through the leaves. What the people didn't, and perhaps never would, know, was that the day of their people was already over."

See this episode of the podcast Backlisted for an excellent discussion of the book. 

I am particularly interested in how Golding captures the perspective of pre-humans with limited cognitive abilities. He conveys the strangeness and incomprehensibility of modern humans as perceived by Neanderthals. In this sense, the book is a type of Science Fiction: it describes a first encounter with Aliens of superior capability.

We are approaching the day when modern humans will encounter a new and quasi-alien intelligence: it may be AI, or it may be genetically enhanced versions of ourselves.




On a scientific note, can someone provide an update to this 2013 work: "... high quality genome sequence obtained from the toe of a female Neanderthal who lived in the Altai mountains in Siberia. Interestingly, copy number variation at 16p11.2 is one of the structural variants identified in a recent deCODE study as related to IQ depression"? Here is an interesting follow up paper: Nature 2016 Aug 11; 536(7615): 205–209.
   



Audiobook:

 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Othram identifies murder victim from ~20 cells equivalent DNA sample


Othram, a DNA forensics company I co-founded, continues to solve cold cases around the world. 

Murder victim Rodney Peter Johnson was identified from a sample of only 0.2 nanograms of DNA (equivalent of 20 cells). Mr. Johnson had last been seen in 1987, when he was 25 years old. His body was discovered in 1994 by a fisherman in Lake Stickney, near Everett WA. It was badly decomposed and could not be identified.

The Johnson family has waited decades for closure. Press conference video.

See Othram: the future of DNA forensics

The existing FBI standard (CODIS) for DNA identification uses only 20 markers (STRs -- previously only 13 loci were used!). By contrast, genome wide sequencing can reliably call millions of genetic variants. 

For the first time, the cost curves for these two methods have crossed: modern sequencing costs no more than extracting CODIS markers using the now ~30 year old technology. 

What can you do with millions of genetic markers? 

1. Determine relatedness of two individuals with high precision. This allows detectives to immediately identify a relative (ranging from distant cousin to sibling or parent) of the source of the DNA sample, simply by scanning through large DNA databases. ...

If you have contacts in law enforcement, please alert them to the potential of this new technology.

Cheap Document Camera

I built this using a $35 1080p web camera and a $20 LED lamp I already had in my office. 

I've tested on Google Meet and Zoom, it allows me to display equations and quick sketches to collaborators and students. There are much fancier purpose-built document cameras with similar functionality, but these are mostly sold out on Amazon, due to the increase in remote work and online teaching. The particular web cam I am using (see link above) has a manual focus, in case the software auto-focus is unsatisfactory.


Both Google Meet and Zoom allow to switch from the default internal camera on my laptop to the external web cam (a simple toggle in Settings). The web cam is auto-detected on both Mac OS and Chrome -- I did not have to install any drivers.

The plastic clip I used to attach the web cam to the lamp is from the kitchen (Bed Bath and Beyond). Tape would also work as the web cam is very light.


Here is the rig in action, using Google Meet. I write on the pad and my colleague can see it very clearly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

U.S.-China Decoupling: Separating Myth From Reality (Georgetown panel)

 

This is a good panel on US-China decoupling, from June 2020. I especially recommend the discussion between 1h and 1h30m.

Regarding semiconductors: How fast will SMIC close the gap with TSMC? It's now a huge priority. 

Chip design in China advanced much faster than most US observers expected in the past few years, and I think semiconductor fabrication will also advance quickly in the future. Fabs are huge, complex infrastructure investments, which they tend to do well. (According to Goodrich, 60 fabs under construction right now in China.) I also expect them to be good at fine-tuning the production process, pulling in engineering talent from Taiwan and S. Korea as necessary. The most difficult technology hurdle will be the advanced lithography machines that still depend on US and European intellectual property. 
Georgetown US-China Dialogue 2020 
Wang Tao is a managing director and head of Asia Economic Research at UBS investment bank in Hong Kong. She covers macroeconomic and policy issues in Asia and China. 
Jörg Wuttke is the chief representative in China of BASF, a large German chemical company. He is also the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. 
Dan Wang is a Beijing-based technology analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, an economic research firm. His focus is on China's technology progress—especially on semiconductors—as well as the unfolding tech war related to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, export controls, and Huawei. 
Jimmy Goodrich is vice president for global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). In this role, he leads SIA’s global policy team and its research and analysis of foreign semiconductor policies and capabilities. Jimmy is also the executive committee chair of the United States Information Technology Office (USITO) in Beijing, representing SIA in his capacity.


Related: China's eRMB, a blockchain based digital currency linked 1-1 to the yuan, seems to be flying under the radar. In my opinion this has huge possibilities -- in the future, anyone with the app (an eRMB account) can transact in RMB whether they are in Germany or Iran. This development is an inevitable consequence of the US weaponizing SWIFT...  

Ray Dalio Warns of U.S.-China ‘Capital War’ That Would Hit Dollar (Bloomberg)


 

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Sibling Validation of Polygenic Risk Scores and Complex Trait Prediction (Nature Scientific Reports)

This is the published version of our paper which uses tens of thousands of siblings to validate polygenic trait and risk prediction. We show that the predictors can differentiate between siblings (which one has heart disease? is taller?), despite similarity in childhood environments and genotype. The predictors work almost as well in pairwise sibling comparisons as in comparisons between randomly selected strangers. 

There are now many validations of polygenic prediction in the scientific literature, conducted using groups of people born on different continents and in different decades than the original populations used in training. With the new sibling results our confidence is extremely high that the predictors are capturing causal genetic effects, and that complex trait prediction from DNA alone is a reality.
Sibling Validation of Polygenic Risk Scores and Complex Trait Prediction 

Louis Lello, Timothy Raben, Stephen D. H. Hsu
I posted about the bioRxiv preprint version back in March:
We test a variety of polygenic predictors using tens of thousands of genetic siblings for whom we have SNP genotypes, health status, and phenotype information in late adulthood. Siblings have typically experienced similar environments during childhood, and exhibit negligible population stratification relative to each other. Therefore, the ability to predict differences in disease risk or complex trait values between siblings is a strong test of genomic prediction in humans. We compare validation results obtained using non-sibling subjects to those obtained among siblings and find that typically most of the predictive power persists in within-family designs. In the case of disease risk we test the extent to which higher polygenic risk score (PRS) identifies the affected sibling, and also compute Relative Risk Reduction as a function of risk score threshold. For quantitative traits we examine between-sibling differences in trait values as a function of predicted differences, and compare to performance in non-sibling pairs. Example results: Given 1 sibling with normal-range PRS score (less than 84th percentile) and 1 sibling with high PRS score (top few percentiles), the predictors identify the affected sibling about 70-90 percent of the time across a variety of disease conditions, including Breast Cancer, Heart Attack, Diabetes, etc. For height, the predictor correctly identifies the taller sibling roughly 80 percent of the time when the (male) height difference is 2 inches or more.







From the paper:
If a girl grows up to be taller than her sister, with whom she spent the first 18 years of her life, it seems likely at least some of the height difference is due to genetic differences. How much of phenotype difference can we predict from DNA alone? If one of the sisters develops breast cancer later in life, how much of the risk was due to genetic variants that she does not share with her asymptomatic sister? These are fundamental questions in human biology, which we address (at least to some extent) in this paper.

... We emphasize that predictors trained on even larger datasets will likely have significantly stronger performance than the ones analyzed here [13, 14]. As we elaborated in earlier work, where many of these predictors were first investigated, their main practical utility at the moment is in the identification of outliers who may be at exceptionally high (or low) risk for a specific disease condition. The results here confirm that high risk score outliers are indeed at elevated risk, even compared to their (normal range score) siblings.

The sibling results presented in this paper, together with the many out of sample validations of polygenic scores that continue to appear in the literature, suggest that genomic prediction in humans is a robust and important advance that will lead to improvements in translational medicine as well as deep insights into human genetics.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Discrete Hilbert Space, the Born Rule, and Quantum Gravity


This is a new paper which I only recently found the time to write up, although I have been thinking about the ideas off and on for some time.

It extends ideas first discussed in two papers with A. Zee and R. Buniy: Is Hilbert space discrete? and Discreteness and the origin of probability in quantum mechanics.

Slides from a related talk at Caltech IQIM.

The new paper connects discrete Hilbert space to specific models of quantum gravity, such as simplicial or lattice quantum gravity.
Discrete Hilbert Space, the Born Rule, and Quantum Gravity
https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.12938

Quantum gravitational effects suggest a minimal length, or spacetime interval, of order the Planck length. This in turn suggests that Hilbert space itself may be discrete rather than continuous. One implication is that quantum states with norm below some very small threshold do not exist. The exclusion of what Everett referred to as maverick branches is necessary for the emergence of the Born Rule in no collapse quantum mechanics. We discuss this in the context of quantum gravity, showing that discrete models (such as simplicial or lattice quantum gravity) indeed suggest a discrete Hilbert space with minimum norm. These considerations are related to the ultimate level of fine-graining found in decoherent histories (of spacetime geometry plus matter fields) produced by quantum gravity.
From the Discussion:
No collapse (or many worlds) versions of quantum mechanics are often characterized as extravagant, because of the many branches of the wavefunction. However it is also extravagant to postulate that spacetime or Hilbert space are infinitely continuous. Continuous Hilbert space requires that for any two choices of orientation of a qubit spin (see Figure 1), no matter how close together, there are an infinite number of physically distinct states between them, with intermediate orientation. Instead, there may only be a finite (but very large) number of distinct orientations allowed, suggesting a minimum norm in Hilbert space. No experiment can probe absolute continuity, and indeed there seem to be fundamental limits on such experiments, arising from quantum gravity itself.

We illustrated a direct connection between discrete spacetime (the simplex length a) and discrete Hilbert space (minimum non-zero distance in Hilbert space produced by time evolution), in a specific class of quantum gravity models based on Feynman path integrals. It may be the case that maximally fine-grained decoherent histories generated within quantum gravity have discrete geometries and exist in a discrete Hilbert space. Consequently histories with sufficiently small norm are never generated, thereby solving Everett's problem with maverick branches. In the remaining branches, deviations from Born Rule probabilities are almost entirely hidden from semi-classical observers. ...
See also

The Quantum Simulation Hypothesis: Do we live in a quantum multiverse simulation?

Feynman and Everett

Gork revisited

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: "chilling academic freedom"

From the FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION: "FIRE’s mission is to defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of liberty."
Peter Bonilla (FIRE): ... it’s worth visiting the case of Stephen Hsu at Michigan State University. His case is more sobering, because the campaign succeeded in forcing his resignation as MSU’s Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. (Hsu, a theoretical physicist, remains on MSU’s tenured faculty.) Hsu was brought down in significant part by the pressure on MSU generated by a Twitter thread and accompanying petition by MSU’s Graduate Employees Union, which cobbled together a string of decontextualized, condensed remarks on genetics and intelligence to brand Hsu “a vocal scientific racist and eugenicist.”

Hsu rebutted the claims in a post on his personal blog, accusing the petitioners of acting in bad faith. He had a point. Apart from the fact that Twitter is a woefully inadequate forum to debate intricate matters of science (or even to accurately characterize them), some of the claims against Hsu are dishonest on their face. To highlight one example, the GEU seized on the fact that a study supported in part through his office’s funding (Hsu oversaw research expenditures of roughly $700 million) suggested that there was no widespread racial bias in police shootings. GEU characterized this by saying that “Hsu’s office appears to have directed funding to research downplaying racism in bias in police shootings,” implying that this was his very goal. This is a striking charge to make against a scientist’s integrity without presenting any evidence; it’s also simply not how scientific inquiry works.

The claims against Hsu alleged no concrete misconduct or malfeasance in carrying out his administrative duties; rather, they amalgamated a disparate set of remarks, attributed the least charitable set of motives to his making them, and stated that someone holding those purported beliefs was per se unfit to hold his position. Unfortunately, MSU went for it. On June 19, MSU president Samuel Stanley demanded, and received, Hsu’s resignation as VP.

Spillover effects on academic freedom

The president of MSU’s Graduate Employees Union cheerfully expressed the opinion that the Hsu episode should have no chilling effect on academic freedom, because the GEU only sought to have Hsu removed from his administrative position and not from the tenured faculty. To be sure, there are significant differences between the two propositions, and administrators are generally considered at-will employees who can be fired any time. (Administrator cases are also outside the scope of FIRE’s mission of defending student and faculty rights.). But from someone who’d just helped mount a successful campaign that worked in part by declaring a range of opinions on certain issues effectively outside the bounds of legitimate academic inquiry, this assertion is laughable.

Faculty will most certainly take note of the actions colleges take against administrators, note the implications they may have for academic freedom, and adjust accordingly. Universities may not be so easily able to rid themselves of tenured faculty members, but several years of faculty cases suggest that universities can be quite willing to override faculty governance for the purposes of pursuing discipline (including termination and loss of tenure) against faculty for speech demonstrably protected by their academic freedom. ...

Media coverage:

A Twitter Mob Takes Down an Administrator at Michigan State (Wall Street Journal June 25)

Scholar forced to resign over study that found police shootings not biased against blacks (The College Fix)

On Steve Hsu and the Campaign to Thwart Free Inquiry (Quillette)

Michigan State University VP of Research Ousted (Reason Magazine, Eugene Volokh, UCLA)

Research isn’t advocacy (NY Post Editorial Board)

Podcast interview on Tom Woods show (July 2)

College professor forced to resign for citing study that found police shootings not biased against blacks (Law Enforcement Today, July 5)

"Racist" College Researcher Ousted After Sharing Study Showing No Racial Bias In Police Shootings (ZeroHedge, July 6)

Twitter mob: College researcher forced to resign after study finding no racial bias in police shootings (Reclaim the Net, July 8)

Horowitz: Asian-American researcher fired from Michigan State administration for advancing facts about police shootings (The Blaze, July 8)

I Cited Their Study, So They Disavowed It: If scientists retract research that challenges reigning orthodoxies, politics will drive scholarship (Wall Street Journal July 8)

Conservative author cites research on police shootings and race. Researchers ask for its retraction in response (The College Fix, July 8)

Academics Seek to Retract Study Disproving Racist Police Shootings After Conservative Cites It (Hans Bader, CNSNews, July 9)

The Ideological Corruption of Science (theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss in the Wall Street Journal, July 12)

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: "chilling academic freedom" (Peter Bonilla, July 22)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Genetic architecture of complex traits and disease risk predictors

The published version of the paper below is now available here:
www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-68881-8
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. Using data from the UK Biobank, 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.
There are a lot of detailed results in the paper, but two main points should be emphasized:

1. Much of the genetic risk identified in polygenic predictors is outside genic (protein coding) regions, and not accessible through exome sequencing.

2. The DNA regions used in disease risk predictors so far constructed seem to be largely disjoint, suggesting that most genetic disease risks are largely uncorrelated. It seems possible in theory for an individual to be a low-risk outlier in all conditions simultaneously.

The space of genetic variation is high dimensional, and extends far beyond individual (protein coding) genes. Intuitions about strong pleiotropy are likely wrong -- they were developed before we knew anything about real genetic architectures. There seem to be many causal variants that can be independently modified.


The bioRxiv (preprint) version of the paper was discussed in these earlier posts:

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

Pleiotropy: Myths and Reality

From the Peiotropy post above:
1. Regions of DNA correlated to different disease risks are largely disjoint.

2. It is plausible that causal genetic variants lie in these regions. For example, the predictor SNPs themselves could be causal, or they could tag (be highly correlated in state with) nearby causal variants.

3. Hypothetically, one could edit these causal variants independently, making the beneficiary simultaneously low risk for many conditions. The number of standard deviations of effect size in the polygenic score for each disease that can be modified independently (i.e., without affecting other disease risks or traits) is large and can be directly estimated from our results.

As the figure below (source) makes clear, a few SD change (e.g., ~5 SD, from 99th percentile to 1st percentile) in polygenic score for a given disease risk can lead to a 10x or possibly 100x decrease in absolute probability in having the condition. Our results suggest that the amount of variance available for engineering is much greater than this.


Some orders of magnitude:

1E07 or ~10M common SNP differences between two individuals.

1E04 or ~10k SNPs (on average; could be much fewer) control most of the common variance for a typical complex trait.

So, in principle, there could be 1E03 or ~1k entirely independent complex traits with zero pleiotropy between them. These might include dozens of common disease risks, ~100 cosmetic traits, including facial and body morphology parameters, dozens of psychometric variables, including personality traits, etc. Clearly, individual differences are well accommodated by a ~1k dimensional phenotype space embedded in a ~10M dimensional space of genetic variants.

Of course, it is an unrealistic idealization for the traits to be entirely independent in genetic architecture. We expect that some genetic variants affect more than one trait. But our results suggest that a significant part of the genetic variance of each trait can be modified (e.g., via editing) independently of the other traits. This is simply a consequence of high dimensionality.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Ideological Corruption of Science (Lawrence Krauss in the Wall Street Journal)

Theoretical Physicist Lawrence Krauss writes in the Wall Street Journal.
WSJ: In the 1980s, when I was a young professor of physics and astronomy at Yale, deconstructionism was in vogue in the English Department. We in the science departments would scoff at the lack of objective intellectual standards in the humanities, epitomized by a movement that argued against the existence of objective truth itself, arguing that all such claims to knowledge were tainted by ideological biases due to race, sex or economic dominance.

It could never happen in the hard sciences, except perhaps under dictatorships, such as the Nazi condemnation of “Jewish” science, or the Stalinist campaign against genetics led by Trofim Lysenko, in which literally thousands of mainstream geneticists were dismissed in the effort to suppress any opposition to the prevailing political view of the state.

Or so we thought. In recent years, and especially since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, academic science leaders have adopted wholesale the language of dominance and oppression previously restricted to “cultural studies” journals to guide their disciplines, to censor dissenting views, to remove faculty from leadership positions if their research is claimed by opponents to support systemic oppression.

... At Michigan State University, one group used the strike to organize and coordinate a protest campaign against the vice president for research, physicist Stephen Hsu, whose crimes included doing research on computational genomics to study how human genetics might be related to cognitive ability—something that to the protesters smacked of eugenics. He was also accused of supporting psychology research at MSU on the statistics of police shootings that didn’t clearly support claims of racial bias. Within a week, the university president forced Mr. Hsu to resign.

... Shortly after Mr. Hsu resigned, the authors of the psychology study asked the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science to retract their paper—not because of flaws in their statistical analysis, but because of what they called the “misuse” of their article by journalists who argued that it countered the prevailing view that police forces are racist. They later amended the retraction request to claim, conveniently, that it “had nothing to do with political considerations, ‘mob’ pressure, threats to the authors, or distaste for the political views of people citing the work approvingly.” As a cosmologist, I can say that if we retracted all the papers in cosmology that we felt were misrepresented by journalists, there would hardly be any papers left.

Actual censorship is also occurring. A distinguished chemist in Canada argued in favor of merit-based science and against hiring practices that aim at equality of outcome if they result “in discrimination against the most meritorious candidates.” For that he was censured by his university provost, his published review article on research and education in organic synthesis was removed from the journal website, and two editors involved in accepting it were suspended.

An Italian scientist at the international laboratory CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, had his scheduled seminar on statistical imbalances between the sexes in physics canceled and his position at the laboratory revoked because he suggested that apparent inequities might not be directly due to sexism. A group of linguistics students initiated a public petition asking that the psychologist Steven Pinker be stripped of his position as a Linguistics Society of America Fellow for such offenses as tweeting a New York Times article they disapproved of.

Whenever science has been corrupted by falling prey to ideology, scientific progress suffers. This was the case in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union—and in the U.S. in the 19th century when racist views dominated biology, and during the McCarthy era, when prominent scientists like Robert Oppenheimer were ostracized for their political views. To stem the slide, scientific leaders, scientific societies and senior academic administrators must publicly stand up not only for free speech in science, but for quality, independent of political doctrine and divorced from the demands of political factions.

Mr. Krauss a theoretical physicist, is president of the Origins Project Foundation and author of “The Physics of Climate Change,” forthcoming in January.

Media coverage:

A Twitter Mob Takes Down an Administrator at Michigan State (Wall Street Journal June 25)

Scholar forced to resign over study that found police shootings not biased against blacks (The College Fix)

On Steve Hsu and the Campaign to Thwart Free Inquiry (Quillette)

Michigan State University VP of Research Ousted (Reason Magazine, Eugene Volokh, UCLA)

Research isn’t advocacy (NY Post Editorial Board)

Podcast interview on Tom Woods show (July 2)

College professor forced to resign for citing study that found police shootings not biased against blacks (Law Enforcement Today, July 5)

"Racist" College Researcher Ousted After Sharing Study Showing No Racial Bias In Police Shootings (ZeroHedge, July 6)

Twitter mob: College researcher forced to resign after study finding no racial bias in police shootings (Reclaim the Net, July 8)

Horowitz: Asian-American researcher fired from Michigan State administration for advancing facts about police shootings (The Blaze, July 8)

I Cited Their Study, So They Disavowed It: If scientists retract research that challenges reigning orthodoxies, politics will drive scholarship (Wall Street Journal July 8)

Conservative author cites research on police shootings and race. Researchers ask for its retraction in response (The College Fix, July 8)

Academics Seek to Retract Study Disproving Racist Police Shootings After Conservative Cites It (Hans Bader, CNSNews, July 9)

The Ideological Corruption of Science (theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss in the Wall Street Journal, July 12)

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: "chilling academic freedom" (Peter Bonilla, July 22)

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