“It’s a funny thing,” Jane Jacobs told an interviewer in an interview I cannot find, “you can’t change something unless you love it.” (By “change” she meant improve.) She had seen that people who disliked cities gave poor advice about improving them and understood that it wasn’t just cities. To improve something, it isn’t enough to have a good idea. You also need to (a) pay close attention and (b) overcome obstacles. (a) and (b) aren’t easy. You are unlikely to do them without strong motivation, such as love. (more…)
Archive for the 'Jane Jacobs' Category
SPIEGEL: Wouldn’t it be ethically problematic to create a Neanderthal just for the sake of scientific curiosity?
Church: Well, curiosity may be part of it, but it’s not the most important driving force. The main goal is to increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity. This is true for culture or evolution, for species and also for whole societies. If you become a monoculture, you are at great risk of perishing.
“The main goal is to increase diversity”. Fine. Yet in Church’s own classes — if he is like 99.9% of professors I know — he treats all the students the same (same lectures, same assignments, same tests, same grading scheme), apparently not understanding that such treatment decreases diversity.
When I was a graduate student, I had lunch (along with other graduate students) with Richard Herrnstein, another Harvard professor (of psychology). Herrnstein was on Harvard’s admissions committee. The perfect candidate, he said at lunch, would be a flute-playing football player with perfect SAT scores. Jane Jacobs describes an equally dispiriting lunch with a Harvard professor of urban studies.
What is it about Harvard professors? As Ron Unz says, “the elites they have produced have clearly done a very poor job of leading our country.”
- Interview with Jane Jacobs about The Nature of Economies. “Canada should seriously study Iceland.”
- A month with no electric light. The post is titled “a month with no artificial light” but candles are used.
- Adventures in nutritional therapy. “A record of my successes and failures trying to solve a bunch of health annoyances without resorting to prescription drugs.” I’ve linked here before but there’s lots of new stuff.
- Did you know that the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver did AIDS research?
- Falling off the 5:2 diet program (fasting 2 days per week), popularized by the Horizon TV program Eat Fast and Live Longer. It produced only a little weight loss and the other benefits were invisible.
- Great article about the connection between childhood lead exposure and adult crime rate.
Thanks to Hal Pashler.
- Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses (excerpt from Ric Burn’s documentary New York)
- use of Adderall to treat kids without ADHD. Horrifying. I don’t even know if ADHD is caused by bad nutrition or if it reflects too-rigid teaching — that is, teaching all kids the same way. Roughly 99% of health care ignores the causes of things. I suppose that in a society, like ours, that pays little attention to finding out the causes of problems, the solutions to those problems will become, as the problem worsens, increasingly bizarre and dangerous.
- health benefits of kefir
- The discovery of Vitamin D
Thanks to Paul Nash.
Ecologists understand the exploit/explore distinction. When an animal looks for food, it can either exploit (use previous knowledge of where food is) or explore (try to learn more about where food is). With ants, the difference is visible. Trail of ants to a food source: exploit. Solitary wandering ant: explore. With other animals, the difference is more subtle. You might think that when a rat presses a bar for food, that is pure exploitation. However, my colleagues and I found that when expectation of food was lower, there was more variation — more exploration — in how the rat pressed the bar. In a wide range of domains (genetics, business), less expectation of reward leads to more exploration. In business, this is a common observation. For example, yesterday I read an article about the Washington Post that said its leaders failed to explore enough because they had a false sense of security provide by their Kaplan branch. “Thanks to Kaplan, the Post Company felt less pressure to make hard strategic choices—and less pressure to venture in new directions,” wrote Sarah Ellison.
Striking the right balance between exploitation and exploration is crucial. If an animal exploits too much, it will starve when its supply of food runs out. If it explores too much, it will starve right away. Every instance of collapse in Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Socieities Choose to Fail or Succeed was plausibly due to too much exploitation, too little exploration (which Diamond, even though he is a biologist, fails to say). I’ve posted several times about my discovery that treadmill walking made studying Chinese more pleasant. I believe walking creates a thirst for dry knowledge. My evolutionary explanation is that this pushed prehistoric humans to explore more.
I have never heard an economist make this point: the need for proper balance between exploit and explore. (more…)
- Misophonia. Hearing people eat causes rage. Presumably this tells us something about brain organization — but what?
- Interview with Renata Adler.
- Teacher threatened with termination for not requiring unnecessary books. How dare he think that schools exist to help rather than exploit students!
- Edward Jay Epstein: Fareed Zakaria didn’t plagiarize. Zakaria used almost exactly the same words as Jill Lepore, whom he did not credit. But Lepore’s wording was banal. The interesting content was credited. The real crime is unoriginality.
- Outrageous behavior by Progressive Insurance
- Interview with Jane Jacobs
Thanks to Bryan Castañeda.
- Jane Jacobs, after she got a grant to write her first book, about cities, was invited to lunch by two Harvard/MIT urban studies professors. They wanted her to do a questionnaire survey — that was what they did. “How awful to be a graduate student there,” she thought. “They had no faith in me as an independent thinker.” A CBC interview with Jacobs.
- Successful protest in China against factory pollution.
- Fermented Sriracha (a faux-Asian hot sauce)? More about Sriracha.
- Genetic info about risk of Crohn’s disease fails to produce smoking cessation in smokers at relatively high risk of Crohn’s. (Smoking is a risk factor for Crohn’s.) “These findings . . . do not support the promulgation of commercial DNA based tests,” the authors conclude.
Thanks to Bryan Castañeda.
- EMDR discovered by self-experimentation
- Citations about nutritional supplements
- Data support Jane Jacobs’s view that diverse cities do better than specialized ones. Ed Glaeser: “To innovate, in Jacobs’s view, you often need to borrow the insights of another occupation—and since diverse cities contain many occupations, they should encourage more leaps of insight. . . . About 20 years ago, three coauthors and I examined industrial clusters within cities to test the Marshall-Arrow-Romer hypothesis against the rival Jacobs view. The data supported Jacobs. High levels of industrial concentration within the clusters in the mid-1950s were associated with less subsequent growth between 1956 and 1987.” Via Marginal Revolution.
- North Carolina Board of Dietetics threatens nutrition blogger. “Jan. 12 , Cooksey attended a nutrition seminar at a church in Charlotte. The speaker was the director of diabetes services for a local hospital. “She was giving all the wrong information, just like everyone always does — carbs are OK to eat, we must eat carbs to live, promoting low-fat, etc.,” Cooksey said. “So I spoke up.” After the meeting he handed out a couple of business cards pointing people to his website. Three days later, he got a call from the director of the nutrition board. “Basically, she told me I could not give out nutritional advice without a license,” Cooksey said.”
- A petition asking the FDA to survey the ultrasound machines used to scan pregnant women. What fraction are defective? Did you know you can buy them on Ebay?
Thanks to Alex Chernavsky.