Did convalescent plasma therapy drive the evolution of more infectious covid strains? 2021-01-27T06:16:56.157Z
Angela Pretorius's Shortform 2020-07-08T12:01:35.185Z


Comment by Angela Pretorius on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity · 2021-03-01T20:12:34.706Z · LW · GW

You appear to be very knowledgeable about vaping. Can I ask you for some personal advice?

My husband tried to switch to e-cigs on several occasions. Every time he was back to smoking within a couple of days. He has been using cheap clearomiser e-cigs, and he says the vape liquid leaks into his mouth and leaves a nasty taste, and I suspect that the nicotine content of his vape liquid is too low.

I have been trying to persuade him to try buproprion or more expensive e-cigs or vape liquid with a higher nicotine content.

These are the replies that I usually get: 'I can quit without bupropion. I am smoking at the moment because of stressful event X, and I will quit on date Y when my life will be less stressful' 'I will have the same problems with the expensive e-cigs' 'I'm not really addicted to nicotine. I am just a puffer and I don't draw the smoke deep into my lungs. I only smoke to keep my hands busy/deal with stress/keep me awake at work.'

Comment by Angela Pretorius on The Case Against Education · 2021-02-18T18:07:40.036Z · LW · GW

I won't deny that homework should be banned, school uniforms should be eliminated and school should be optional, but it must be remembered being in school has a few advantages.

  1. In school there are usually explicit rules and predictable punishments, whereas at home there are usually unwritten rules and unpredictable punishments.
  2. Most countries ban corporal punishment at school but allow corporal punishment at home.
  3. Schools provide a daycare service, although their inflexible start and finish times make them poorly optimised for this purpose.
Comment by Angela Pretorius on Catching the Spark · 2021-02-07T17:10:47.121Z · LW · GW

By the way, if you want to really understand Pythagoras's theorem, Cut The Knot has a collection of 118 proofs.

As for the 'tricky seedlings' example, another question would be:

I would expect plants whose seeds are dispersed by animals to be more k-selected and have less 'tricky' seedlings compared with plants whose seeds are dispersed by the wind. Can I think of any counterexamples?

For the question about mould and seedlings, there are some interesting spin-off questions that you could come up with e.g.

I heard speculation somewhere that endothermy may have evolved to protect against fungal infections. If heat is good at killing off fungi, why do compost heaps work better when they are insulated so that they get hot on the inside?

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Covid 1/21: Turning the Corner · 2021-01-24T07:40:50.783Z · LW · GW

My (highly speculative!) hypothesis is that the emergence of these variant viruses arises in cases of chronic infection during which the immune system places great pressure on the virus to escape immunity and the virus does so by getting really good at getting into cells. 11/19

That’s plausible, but doesn’t explain why the chronic infections hadn’t done this earlier, and the English strain doesn’t escape immunity in this way (and we don’t know about the others) so I notice it doesn’t feel like it explains things.

Here is a National Geographic article on how new therapies may have allowed chronic patients to be kept alive for longer and with higher viral loads, and may have influenced viral evolution. In particular, the article cites a preprint on Medrxiv which finds that convalescent plasma therapy leads to rapid changes in spike proteins and to the evolution of antibody resistance.

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2021-01-19T17:36:48.621Z · LW · GW

In my experience, a day off is most likely to improve energy levels and motivation if it is spent doing outdoor exercise.

On the other hand, spending one hour a day on outdoor exercise is more effective than spending one day a week on exercise.

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Luna Lovegood and the Chamber of Secrets - Part 12 · 2021-01-01T16:35:30.404Z · LW · GW

Or is the author a text predicting neural network which has no visuospatial capacities and sucks at geometry?

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-21T07:48:55.305Z · LW · GW

I'm trying to find out which associations are or aren't universal.

Do you associate higher pitched sounds with paler colours and feel them more in your extremities? Do you associate lower pitched sounds with darker colours and feel them more in your core?

When you look at a visually cluttered scene, does your inner speech get louder in order to compete for your attention? If not, how would you make sense of the metaphor 'a loud shirt'?

Would you be more likely to associate thickly textured music with the sensation of being under a duvet than thinly textured music?

Do you automatically associate some sounds with roughness and some sounds with smoothness?

When people talk about something having a 'clear sound', do you imagine it being translucent?

When you hear a very loud and discordant chord, is the pain localised to a particular part of your body depending on the pitch and timbre of the note, do you experience pain that is not really localised anywhere, or is it not painful at all?

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-21T07:23:52.258Z · LW · GW

All but three of your definitions are exactly the same as the definitions that I would give.

Split notes are what novice brass players produce. To hammer a note is to play a note that is loud and sudden and short. Music is flowing if every note feels like it is the natural continuation of the notes before it. So an unanticipated discord or pause or change in volume will break the flow, but if it feels like the music is building up to a sudden change then the flow will be broken by not having this sudden change.

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-20T20:04:34.313Z · LW · GW

Here's one thing I've always found puzzling:

Everyone seems to knows what it means when a music teacher describes a passage as 'flowing' or 'full of energy' or 'treacly', or describes a note to be 'hard' or 'soft' or 'bright' or 'split'. Yet some people say that they don't have synaesthesia and there are even people who say they have no imagery at all.

Are there people who instinctively know what a 'bright sound' is yet don't automatically visualise such sounds as being brightly coloured? Or who instinctively know what a 'hammering note' is without feeling any physical pain when they hear one?

Comment by Angela Pretorius on The Flynn Effect Clarified · 2020-12-13T16:07:12.017Z · LW · GW

The paper Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability by Christopher Epping et al suggests that the Flynn effect was partly due to a reduction in exposure to parasites and infectious diseases during pregnancy and childhood.

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Forecasting Thread: Existential Risk · 2020-09-22T18:17:25.598Z · LW · GW

I agree. I mean, when would you say that the existential catastrophe happens in the following scenario?

Suppose that technological progress starts to slow down and, as a result, economic growth fails to keep pace with population growth. Living standards decline over the next several decades until the majority of the world's population is living in extreme poverty. For a few thousand years the world remains in a malthusian trap. Then there is a period of rapid technological progress for a few hundred years which allows a significant portion of the population to escape poverty and acheive a comfortable standard of living. Then technological progress starts to slow down again. The whole cycle repeats many times until some fluke event causes human extinction.

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2020-07-26T05:40:32.404Z · LW · GW

How are these percentages to be interpreted?

Municipalities spend the most on the cost item "environment" (63%). Environment is followed by "culture, sports and recreation" (56%) and "administration” (44%).

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Prisoners' Dilemma with Costs to Modeling · 2020-07-20T20:41:22.915Z · LW · GW

In the definition FB(X)↔□(X(FB)) , what does FB(X) mean and what does X(FB) mean?

Comment by Angela Pretorius on What are objects that have made your life better? · 2020-07-19T21:19:01.298Z · LW · GW

Here is my list:
1. Peltor Optime 3M earmuffs. Without them I would not be able to work, vacuum the house, be in the same room as a spinning washing machine or allow my husband to control the volume on the TV.
2. Poundland earplugs. They block more noise than any other brand that I've tried.3. Tangle Teezer hair brushes. As a child, if anyone tried to touch my hair I would run away or, if cornered, kick and bite the aggressor. I refused to brush my hair or to cut off my dreadlocks myself. Instead, every time my hair needed to be cut or washed I would be physically restrained and I would be screaming during the whole procedure. Tangle Teezer brushes solved the whole problem.
4. Poundworld has closed down but my list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Poundworld comfort bras. Poundworld boys socks were also great; if you turned them inside out they were actually more comfortable than many expensive brands of seamless socks.
5. Primark full briefs. They are more comfortable than Asda full briefs.
6. Any smartphone, e-reader or other portable boredom-reducing device.

Comment by Angela Pretorius on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-07-19T20:30:40.256Z · LW · GW

I can't fall asleep with earplugs in. I wear earplugs and earmuffs at work, but my job involves fast-paced assembly work which provides a lot of tactile feedback to distract me from the itchy earplugs.

Also be aware any earplugs marketed as being 'for sleep' or 'for nuisance noise' block out so little noise that you are better off sleeping on your side with a pillow over your ear. Look for earplugs with an SNR of at least 30dB (preferably at least 35dB).

Comment by Angela Pretorius on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-07-19T19:45:22.359Z · LW · GW

Two related life hacks:

1. Poundland earplugs are surprisingly good.

2. Slot glasses in over the top of earmuffs. I don't wear contact lenses due to dust allergies, and, even if I buy the thinnest frames, glasses under earmuffs still reduce sound attenuation. (Disclaimer: wearing glasses over earmuffs causes some visual distortion.)

Comment by Angela Pretorius on Angela Pretorius's Shortform · 2020-07-08T12:01:36.075Z · LW · GW

I'm curious about the long-term effects of eviction laws on homelessness rates.

I have a an intuitive argument (below) that removing eviction laws and making no-fault evictions really
easy would allow the housing market to clear and cause lower rents and (in the long term) a drop in
homelessness rates.

Does anyone here know whether there have been any empirical studies into the long-term effects of eviction
laws on homelessness and whether or not they have borne out the conclusion that eviction laws increase the
rate of homelessness? If not, are there any good theoretical arguments as to why eviction laws may or may
not increase homelessness rates?

Here is my argument:

Most rental accommodation stands empty for long periods of time. Why would landlords prefer to let rooms
stand empty than to lower their rents and get their rooms filled? And why do so many landlords refuse to
rent to people of certain demographic groups? For example, I many know of landlords who refuse to rent to
construction workers, black people or people who claim benefits and would rather lose money by letting
their accommodation stand empty. Even where there are anti-discrimination laws to prevent this from
happening, in practice the anti-discrimination laws are impossible to enforce.

The reason is that every time a new tenant moves in, the landlord has to trust that the new tenant will pay
their rent and won't cause property damage or complaints from the neighbors. Because it is so difficult to
evict a 'problem' tenant, the landlord will not rent to demographic groups that he/she perceives as
containing a higher proportion of problem tenants.

In addition, because tenants of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to become 'problem' tenants,
landlords deliberately keep their rents high to discourage those of lower socioeconomic status from renting
from them. As an example, £1000 per month for a property and having it stand empty half the time brings in
an average of £500 per month, whereas charging £800 per month for a property and having it occupied 90% of
the time brings in £720 per month, but if the sort of tenants who can afford £800 per month are more likely
to become problem tenants than the sort of tenants who can afford £1000 per month, and if eviction laws
make the cost of taking in problem tenants very high, then it will be more profitable to charge £1000 per

One other point that needs to be made is that the people who are most at risk of homelessness tend to be
those who are impulsive/heavily discount the future. Imagine a tenant who values the pleasure of engaging
in a certain problem behavior at 10 units and values being evicted and made homeless now at -50 units, but
discounts the future heavily and only values being made homeless in five months time at -5 units. If there
are no eviction laws and engaging in this problem behavior will lead to immediate eviction and
homelessness, then this tenant will decide not to engage in this problem behavior and will not become
homeless. On the other hand, if there are strict eviction laws and engaging in this problem behavior will
lead to a 50% chance of eviction after five months of court cases then this tenant will decide to engage in
the problem behavior.

Comment by Angela Pretorius on How to Beat Procrastination · 2020-07-06T20:41:19.078Z · LW · GW

In my personal experience, the most common cause of procrastination and lack of willpower is open-ended tasks.

At school I would complete any short-answer or multiple choice homework in class or as soon as I got home,
but I would procrastinate over and often fail to complete any homework which involved writing essays, and
the more open-ended the essay question the more I would procrastinate over it. Similarly, if I was asked to
show workings out for my calculations I would refuse to do it, whereas I would usually comply when I was
given equally boring rote copying tasks. This is because there is often more than one way to solve a
problem, and more than one way to lay out such a method on paper, whereas rote copying does not offer any
options to choose from.

In conversation, I respond when I am asked a direct question but when I am asked an open-ended question I
procrastinate over coming up with an answer and there is an awkward silence. If I need to approach and talk
to someone who is not a close friend or family, I can motivate myself to overcome my shyness and do it if I
have what I need to say planned out word-for-word beforehand, but if there are many different ways to
phrase what I need to say then I procrastinate over deciding what to say and end up not saying anything.

I find it harder to motivate myself to clean windows than to motivate myself to vacuum. Vacuuming is a more
unpleasant task than cleaning windows - it involves listening to an irritating noise and wearing
uncomfortable heavy duty hearing protection. But when I clean a window, every time I look at it from a
different angle I see more smears. Due to the lack of a definite moment at which the window is clean I will
typically do the vacuuming first while I summon up the willpower for the window cleaning.

As I child, I would refuse to tidy my room when my mum asked me to. Whereas at school, at after-school
clubs and at church services I would always diligently help when I was asked to tidy up. This is because outside the home, there were always unambiguous rules about which tasks had to be done when tidying up.
Whereas at home I was never sure which tidying-up subtasks absolutely had to be done and which subtasks
were optional.