2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository 2015-01-08T18:00:25.680Z
Partners in scholarship - Search and Find 2011-09-09T12:50:38.844Z


Comment by TrE on How to escape from your sandbox and from your hardware host · 2015-08-01T15:01:47.240Z · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure "Humans, please ignore this post" wasn't serious, and this article is mainly for humans.

Comment by TrE on The horrifying importance of domain knowledge · 2015-07-31T06:47:41.068Z · LW · GW

Or their mom might be a hacker.

Incidentally, there are many cases where I don't care about my username at all and have to come up with something. I'd find it acceptable if they'd just give me a number and a password, or let me register just with a password (perhaps provided by them?), maybe plus e-mail.

Comment by TrE on Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015 · 2015-06-16T18:07:35.294Z · LW · GW

Exactly - the term's quite loosely defined.

Comment by TrE on Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015 · 2015-06-16T14:37:04.598Z · LW · GW

How do you know meetups all meetups attract "losers"? What is - to you - the defining characteristic of such "losers"? How certain are you that your personal experience with one kind of meetup generalizes well to all meetups? How do you know there are fewer or no losers elsewhere, e.g. on the internet?

Comment by TrE on Open Thread, Jun. 8 - Jun. 14, 2015 · 2015-06-13T17:26:33.240Z · LW · GW

This is a good place to post your poem.

Comment by TrE on Communicating via writing vs. in person · 2015-05-22T06:28:58.731Z · LW · GW

Thank you for this post. I have made similar experiences, and feel much more dim-witted when speaking in person (especially compared to others).

Comment by TrE on Is Determinism A Special Case Of Randomness? · 2015-05-06T06:49:17.527Z · LW · GW

Upvoted for changing your mind.

Comment by TrE on Open Thread, Apr. 20 - Apr. 26, 2015 · 2015-04-22T06:34:30.402Z · LW · GW

Is ) not sufficient?

Comment by TrE on Open Thread, Apr. 13 - Apr. 19, 2015 · 2015-04-19T17:43:06.621Z · LW · GW

Just in case you're not aware, this is a double-comment. I've seen this with another comment of yours recently. Probably happens when one double-clicks the comment button.

Comment by TrE on Snape's knowledge of valence shells · 2015-04-13T18:24:35.972Z · LW · GW

You might want to post this on the hpmor subredit page instead - or in the latest open thread. I don't, however, think that a top-level discussion post is necessary for this.

In any case, Snape saying that the number of valence electrons of carbon is a meaningless fact is weak evidence that he didn't read it in Harry's mind.

Comment by TrE on Even better cryonics – because who needs nanites anyway? · 2015-04-09T04:50:00.979Z · LW · GW

There's also leakage by diffusion of gasses, which might be non-negligible due to the high pressure gradient, although the diffusion coefficient e.g. of water through steel should be low. Not sure how that works out.

Comment by TrE on Even better cryonics – because who needs nanites anyway? · 2015-04-09T04:37:55.640Z · LW · GW

Most vessels are spherical or cylindrical, which is already pretty good (intuitively, spherical vessels should be optimal for isotropic materials). You might want to take a look at the mechanics of thin-walled pressure vessels if you didn't already.

It's important to note that the radial stresses in cylindrical vessels are way smaller than the axial and hoop stresses (which, so to say, pull perpendicular to the "direction" of the pressure). This is also why wound fibers can increase the strength of such vessels.

Comment by TrE on Even better cryonics – because who needs nanites anyway? · 2015-04-08T08:35:52.203Z · LW · GW

Materials science undergraduate student here (not a mechanical engineer, my knowledge is limited in the area, I did not go to great lengths to ensure I'm right here, etc.).

A typical method to generate high pressures in research are diamond anvils. This is suitable for exploring the behavior of cells and microorganisms under high pressure.

For human preservation, however, you'd need a pressure vessel. As the yield strength of your typical steel is on the order of 100, maybe 300 MPa, you're really up against a wall here, materials-wise. I don't doubt that suitable alloys for human-sized pressure vessels at 350 MPa exist, however, such vessels will be expensive, and controlling processes within will be difficult. In any case, generating such pressures will probably not involve a moving piston.

I can't really tell whether or not the procedure you've outlined is viable, but I'm quite sure it's far from trivial, just from an engineering point of view.

The concerns of user passive_fist are also valid.

Comment by TrE on Open Thread, Apr. 06 - Apr. 12, 2015 · 2015-04-07T15:51:10.728Z · LW · GW

Please insert some line-breaks at suitable points to make your comment be more readable. At the moment it's figuratively a wall of text.

Edit: Thank you.

Comment by TrE on Thinking well · 2015-04-03T16:59:50.030Z · LW · GW

If you make a joke on a day where jokes are made, but another person is not on the same day anymore, that person might not get the joke because they don't think the day matters.

Comment by TrE on Thinking well · 2015-04-02T09:20:29.669Z · LW · GW

I hate april fool's jokes across time zones. You don't expect them on April 2nd, do you?

Comment by TrE on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 121 · 2015-03-14T04:56:55.965Z · LW · GW

Although honestly, what kind of idiot had the idea to order the date mm/dd/yyyy?

Comment by TrE on Uncategories and empty categories · 2015-02-16T06:28:59.431Z · LW · GW

But well-explained.

Comment by TrE on Don't estimate your creative intelligence by your critical intelligence · 2015-02-05T05:31:08.746Z · LW · GW

(paying a karma toll for this)

The username "Username" with password "password" can be used by anyone wishing to stay anonymous.

Comment by TrE on The guardian article on longevity research [link] · 2015-01-12T20:54:51.586Z · LW · GW

The following would be a better argument, IMO: No, it wouldn't, because you are presupposing that one already understands why one would want to do such a difficult thing. The whole point of pointing out the implications of acceleration in mortality is to point out real mortality rates can imply very long lifespans and that squaring the curve would have major and desirable implications.

Making up numbers is not the way to do this, then. If you want to introduce people to the idea that very long and healthy lives are possible and desirable, a historical perspective would be good. Or you could discuss how we lead relatively healthy lives until about 60, and then somehow the decay kicks in - which is really a shame because we've been healthy for so long, and there shouldn't be a moral reason why it can't stay this way.

Only once the potential benefits have been established does anyone care about how feasible fixing it would be. There are two blades to the idea of 'cost-benefit', and you are dismissing out of hand anyone even trying to roughly estimate the latter.

No I'm not. I agree that living happily ever on would be an enormous win for most humans. And if the author must, they are free to write fiction on how much better the world would be.

Additionally, my point is not that it's ultra-mega-hard to extend the human lifespan, and that we shouldn't even try. But we have to take into account how the system actually works, and then start from there. That is, we have to build a model, then see if we can improve the situation (i.e. extend human lifespan to 1000 years) by varying parameters within the model.

If that's not possible (it's not possible if mortality follows a doubly-exponential curve with a hard cutoff around X years, where X might be extended by 50% - if things go well), we go see if we can circumvent the model, so that it doesn't apply anymore. Blood donations might be a stab at this. Calorie restriction isn't.

To use your atom example:

Right now, our power sources like coal and oil produces X joules per gram; but we can see by simply calculating E=MC^2 that the potential energy of somehow tapping into mass-energy conversion rather than normal chemical potentials would generate multiple orders of magnitude more energy than from normal strategies. This is tantalizing and even believable.

There's a difference between this, and the original writing. You already have a good reason why the real energy content of matter should be way higher than it appears to be. The only grounds on which someone would reply to this

That's just not how the relevant model works. Thusly, I don't think the arguments brought forth are good enough to warrant the claim that atomic energy is possible.

would be that the author of the piece on E=mc^2 then goes on discussing various techniques to increase the energy output of coal burning, perhaps using a novel oxidizer or special reaction conditions. That would be silly, after one has understood why chemical potential energy is so limited.

But, in a way, the author of the original article does exactly this by discussing the impact of various drugs or treatments like calorie restriction. Only that the limits set by the Gompertz model - not the parameters, but the model - and a way to overcome the Gompertz curve - are not discussed.

I have a feeling that I don't understand your point or how it relates to mine, or that I don't see that you would understand my point.

Also I'm getting a hostile vibe from your reply, so while you may answer and I will read your answer, I won't reply to that anymore as this kind of stress negatively impacts my expected lifespan.

Comment by TrE on 2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository · 2015-01-12T08:19:43.747Z · LW · GW

If you're reading a pdf with multiple pages, zooming out to show the entire page (or even displaying two pages at once if your display is wide enough) enables super-fast scrolling through the document. I have seen people not do this and it was painful to watch.

Also, some pdf readers (including adobe reader) have a "magnifying glass" feature, which achieves what you described without having to open the document a second time.

Comment by TrE on Open thread Jan. 5-11, 2015 · 2015-01-12T08:16:58.591Z · LW · GW

I meant, "in the comments of the new article". I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

The goal was to get some discussion and new advice going, and that's difficult if you just link to the old repository, which means one more click on the way, one trivial inconvenience more.

I had thought about copying all the advice (or the good pieces only) over to the old repository once this one is obsolete, i.e. once the rerun repository for march is posted, and I might do this then, if I find the time.

Comment by TrE on The guardian article on longevity research [link] · 2015-01-12T07:06:36.418Z · LW · GW

Then he should give reasons why that's possible. As it is, it seems to me like he is simply ignoring the math behind ageing. The following would be a better argument, IMO:

The Gompertz law describes human mortality as it currently is. It says that human mortality over time increases more than exponentially. To defy the Gompertz law, bold steps are necessary. Constant maintenance via external drugs that do what our immune system currently does or re-setting our immune system to a younger age may be necessary, as well as keeping the length of our telomers constant without inducing cancer, to break the hard limit set by the Gompertz curve.


Radioactive decay is exponential and not linear. That is partly what makes nuclear waste take so long to disappear: Atomic decay is a random process, and even after a few half-lives, some radiation remains. And it gets worse: Many waste products have very long lifetimes, so their radioactivity stays around even when short-lived products are all gone. But researchers have found a solution: They bombard radioactive atoms with other nuclear particles, inducing them to decay much faster. The only weakly radioactive products can be safely extracted. In effect, this process overcomes the limiting math of radioactive decay, enabling linear decay rates and quick decay of long-lived fission products.

Comment by TrE on The guardian article on longevity research [link] · 2015-01-11T20:26:46.821Z · LW · GW

the probability of a 25-year-old dying before their 26th birthday is 0.1%. If we could keep that risk constant throughout life instead of it rising due to age-related disease, the average person would – statistically speaking – live 1,000 years.

That's just not how the relevant model works. Unless there's very good reason to believe we can overcome the limits set by this model, this calculation is like saying

the number of radioactive atoms decaying to stable atoms in this 1kg lump of nuclear waste in the first hour after its formation is . If we could keep this number constant throughout storage, nuclear waste would - in terms of radioactivity - be completely converted to stable elements in just 3 years.

Although there are some arguments on why significant extension of lifespans might be possible, the relevant model is not even discussed, and thusly I don't think the arguments brought forth are good enough to warrant the claim that 1000 years are possible.

Comment by TrE on 2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository · 2015-01-10T16:53:55.455Z · LW · GW

Fair point. Works differently for everyone, but at least one should reflect on the state of their desk once in a while.

I do not understand your need to post this comment anonymously.

Comment by TrE on Low Hanging fruit for buying a better life · 2015-01-08T20:29:24.760Z · LW · GW

If you have internalized the concept of what a sharp edge is and if you are using said knive to cut things.

If, on the other hand, you are a child, no or a very dull knife is the best option.

Comment by TrE on Exams and Overfitting · 2015-01-08T20:07:24.262Z · LW · GW

Memorizing disconnected bits of knowledge without understanding the material - that would be a case of overfitting.

That is exactly what most students do. Source: Am student, have watched others learn.

Comment by TrE on 2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository · 2015-01-08T19:33:17.328Z · LW · GW

Keep your work desk productive.

De-clutter your work desk regularly, getting rid of things you don't actually use. This includes equipment, paper, plants and even furniture that's doing nothing. Put misplaced items back to their designated space. Designate spaces for supplies and references if you haven't already. Free nearby spaces which are cluttered with things you don't actually use. Put those things out of reach, fill the space with other things.

A good idea is to remove every single item on your desk and think about what you actually need. Repeat this monthly. Put everything back to its place at the end of the day. Repeat this daily. If you find that you need to fetch something daily, put it closer.

Comment by TrE on 2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository · 2015-01-08T18:02:26.999Z · LW · GW

Summary of best comments on the original repository

The best advice posted (best comments) in the original repository included (I blatantly pirate-copied it over from their various authors):

  • Avoid commuting, or failing that, commute effectively (i.e. by train or bicycle and not by car, so you can do some useful work or exercise).

  • Start your posts with a summary if it's more than 3-5 paragraphs. Use paragraphs.

  • Treat craigslist as a free storage. You don't need to physically own all the tools if you can pick them up for <(0.1 paychecks). Treat those things as if you'd already own them. Pick 'em up when you actually need them.

  • Spend more effort (money, time) on optimizing things you regularly use, such as clothing, matresses, hygiene products, kitchen accessories, and ergonomic computer hardware.

  • If you are trying to do X, surround yourself with people who do X. E.g. if you want to read, go visit a (university) library.

  • If you are looking for a job, tell everyone you know. Many jobs are gained through personal connections. Post on facebook.

  • If a complete stranger or an acquaintance can do something useful for you, ask. (Politely. At a convenient time. With an appropriate amount of honest flattery.) If they say no, don't press them. Always remember to thank them twice: After they agree to help you and again after they've actually helped you.

  • Obtain a smartphone. Use it to look data (wikipedia), directions, prices (amazon), and places (yelp), record memos and various data, and read emails. Also, set alarms.

  • Learn to cook at least a handful of simple, cheap, fast meals.

  • Never post a web link that requires readers to click on it to find out if they want to click on it.

  • Observe the 80/20 rule for cleaning. Better clean twice as often less efficiently than waste a day cleaning stuff thoroughly.

  • When in need of a conversation topic, ask a question about the other person's life. Anything about their life. People like to talk about themselves.

  • Always negotiate the salary when being accepted for a job.

Lots and lots more, from habit formation to winter clothing. Just take a look.

Comment by TrE on Low Hanging fruit for buying a better life · 2015-01-07T19:44:07.241Z · LW · GW

As in, "I need to have exactly this kind of mug. It will vastly improve the quality of my life!"

Comment by TrE on Low Hanging fruit for buying a better life · 2015-01-06T17:38:33.400Z · LW · GW

Don't hurry, looks like we'll have a re-run soon :).

Comment by TrE on Low Hanging fruit for buying a better life · 2015-01-06T10:47:10.927Z · LW · GW

Relevant in this context:

Boring Advice Repository

Spend Money on Ergonomics, Ergonomics Revisted

Comment by TrE on Low Hanging fruit for buying a better life · 2015-01-06T10:39:30.784Z · LW · GW

Some ideas of mine:

  • really bright lights
  • a cook book with healthy, easy, and quick recipes
  • some computer hardware, like a better keyboard or mouse, or a second computer screen
  • a few meditation lessons
  • good headphones (in terms of quality, not price)
  • some room decoration, e.g. plants
  • paying a delivery service instead of buying things yourself
  • an electric teeth brush (assuming you don't own one)

What about larger investments, i.e. $200-$500? If they lead to a proportionally better life, these might be worth considering as well.

Comment by TrE on Open thread Jan. 5-11, 2015 · 2015-01-05T18:10:41.271Z · LW · GW

Should we have some sort of re-run for the various repositories we have? I mean, there is the Repository repository and it's great for looking things up if you know such a thing exists, but (i) not everyone knows this exists and more importantly, (ii) while these repositories are great for looking things up, I feel that not much content gets added to the repositories. For example, the last top-level comment to the boring advice repository was created in march 2014.

Since there's 12 repositories linked in the meta repository as of today, I suggest we spend each month of 2015 re-running one of them.

I'm not certain which form these re-runs should take, since IMO, all content should be in one place and I'd like to avoid the trivial inconvenience for visitors clicking on the re-run post and then having to click one more time.

Should there be some sort of re-run of the 12 repositories during 2015, one per month? [pollid:808]

Which form should the re-run have, conditional on there being one? [pollid:809]

Comment by TrE on The "best" mathematically-informed topics? · 2014-11-15T08:38:42.639Z · LW · GW

I'm just making a similar experience.

Comment by TrE on The "best" mathematically-informed topics? · 2014-11-14T04:57:30.605Z · LW · GW

Definitely involves math (since you asked).

Comment by TrE on Open thread, Nov. 3 - Nov. 9, 2014 · 2014-11-04T05:18:59.701Z · LW · GW

A valid reason would be the scarcity of resources. Further technological progress will be severely constrained by which chemical elements are available cheaply and which are not. Lots of interesting and useful chemical elements are not available in sufficiently concentrated ores, or they are rare in all of earth's crust, having sunken down inside earth's core during its formation.

These elements thusly are produced only as by-products of other elements which are more concentrated in their ores. This is valid not only for most of the lanthanides, but also for elements like indium, tellurium, gallium, germanium and the platinum group metals.

Asteroids might hold rich deposits of these elements because the elements could not sink down into their cores, and even if they did, most asteroids are small enough.

So if we don't want to substitute that indium tin oxide in our smartphone touchscreens with cheaper elements, we'll have to mine asteroids.

Edit²: Here's a relevant review article (Vesborg, Jaramillo 2012)

Comment by TrE on The Truth and Instrumental Rationality · 2014-11-01T16:53:03.748Z · LW · GW

I'm happy that you adressed this topic. It adresses a certain failure mode about instrumental rationality that may commonly cause high-status people to make poor decisions.

However, I don't think your narrative about human civilization, the birth of politics etc. is actually necessary for your conclusion. I think at best it's dubious as far as historical accuracy goes, and entertaining as a metaphor for the different layers for human interaction with each other and the environment.

The example with the persons' heads, I found much more helpful at understanding your conclusion (which I share in general). It's a good post. If I could suggest a change, I would cut out the social evolution bit and fill it with more examples, counter-examples, and border cases, preferrably taken from the real world.

Comment by TrE on Open thread, Oct. 27 - Nov. 2, 2014 · 2014-10-31T15:47:08.548Z · LW · GW

On the contrary, from my experience it isn't.

Sorry, I could not resist the opportunity. But seriously, I don't often see people disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing. More often, they'll point out different aspects, or their own perspective on a topic. To be honest, support and affirmation are perhaps a bit rarer than they should be, but I've rarely perceived disagreement to be hostile, as opposed to misunderstanding, or legitimate and resolvable via further discussion.

More datapoints, anyone?

Comment by TrE on Things to consider when optimizing: Sleep · 2014-10-29T15:26:46.038Z · LW · GW

Edited. Thanks. I remember thinking about it, and noticing that it doesn't quite match.

Comment by TrE on Things to consider when optimizing: Sleep · 2014-10-29T06:43:29.938Z · LW · GW

I limit my daily internet usage with LeechBlock (for Firefox; compare StayFocus'd for Chrome). Until a few months ago, I had allowed myself to access all of the internet only from 8pm to 10pm. LessWrong, Wikipedia and similar sites are freely accessible. This has led to me always going to bed after 10pm, and often much later than that.

A few weeks ago, I shifted my "allowed internet time" to the morning hours, to 6-8AM. Then even further back, and now I wake up at 4:30 and may then browse the internet for an hour.

I now reliably get up at 4:30, and I go to bed when I feel tired - typically around 8 to 9 pm. Getting up at a regular time really has helped my sleep, and I have an incentive to not just turn around and nap for another half hour. Aligning my goals and incentives made it easy.

Additionally, I installed several really bright LED bulbs I switch on in the morning. About 40$, but effortless once installed. No habits to remember, no willpower to fail.

Comment by TrE on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-10-24T15:50:43.195Z · LW · GW


Comment by TrE on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-10-23T04:27:17.989Z · LW · GW

I accidentally pressed enter and the form was sent away - half-filled.

This is stupid. I sent another form with only the second half of the survey filled out. Dividing line is the population question, which I incorrectly answered with Rot13(Ehffvn).

Comment by TrE on Open thread, Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2014 · 2014-10-08T18:01:35.128Z · LW · GW

What could be learned by getting to know more of those numbers? What's the benefit of knowing them now over waiting, e.g., 100 years when computing power is cheaper and better algorithms might exist?

And what else could be done with the computing power?

Although you can indeed never know the outcome of research, I think we can estimate whether particular research is worthwhile.

Comment by TrE on Open thread, Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2014 · 2014-10-08T05:33:37.881Z · LW · GW

Are there any benefits to knowing prime numbers so large they can't even be used in cryptography?


Then I guess it's a bad idea.

Comment by TrE on On Caring · 2014-10-07T16:12:54.659Z · LW · GW

We can safely reason that the typical human, even in the future, will choose existence over non-existence. We can also infer which environments they would like better, and so we can maximise our efforts to leave behind an earth (solar system, universe) that's worth living in, not an arid desert, neither a universe tiled in smiley faces.

While I agree that, since future people will never be concrete entities, like shadowy figures, we don't get to decide on their literary or music tastes, I think we should still try to make them exist in an environment worth living in, and, if possible, get them to exist. In the worst case, they can still decide to exit this world. It's easier in our days than it's ever been!

Additionally, I personally value a universe filled with humans higher than a universe filled with ■.

Comment by TrE on Open thread, Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2014 · 2014-10-07T05:54:07.424Z · LW · GW

Excluding the concept of "leadership until you get killed".

Comment by TrE on A simple game that has no solution · 2014-07-22T10:44:16.501Z · LW · GW

In the 2x2 reduced game, Player One's strategy is 1/3 B, 2/3 C; Two's strategy is 2/3 X, 1/3 Y. In the complete game with trembling hands, Player Two's strategy remains unchanged, as you wrote in the starter of the linked thread, invoking proper equilibrium.

Comment by TrE on A simple game that has no solution · 2014-07-22T09:23:25.684Z · LW · GW

Okay, I agree. But what do you think about the extensive-form game in the image below? Is the structure changed there?

Comment by TrE on A simple game that has no solution · 2014-07-22T07:16:45.193Z · LW · GW

As I wrote above, in the limit of large stacks, long pondering times, and decisions jointly made by large organizations, people do actually behave rationally. As an example: Bidding for oil drilling rights can be modelled as auctions with incomplete and imperfect information. Naïve bidding strategies fall prey to the winner's curse. Game theory can model these situations as Bayesian games and compute the emerging Bayesian Nash Equilibria.

Guess what? The companies actually bid the way game theory predicts!