Twitter, Baskets of Hands, and the Incentive Problem

 

I should state up front that I do not use Twitter. I have occasionally followed a link to Twitter, but I don’t linger there. It is a confusing mess that seems to bring out the very worst in people. It seems that Twitter is starting to realize this, and to understand that the solution may not be in controlling who has access to Twitter, but in how the system rewards its users. We all respond to incentives. We all, to some degree, are rewards junkies – when certain behaviors are rewarded, we repeat and amplify those behaviors to receive more of those rewards. Twitter’s problem, as its CEO Jack Dorsey has begun to understand, is that it rewards awful behavior, rage, groupthink, bullying, and dehumanizing its users.  A Buzzfeed article from May 15th details how Twitter is experimenting with a new interface – one that reduces the incentives for the worst of behavior, and perhaps restores some humanity.

In its early years Twitter optimized for engagement, which engagement features (replies, and the like and retweet buttons) and metrics (number of followers, likes, retweets, and replies) help to deliver. So now it’s trying to shift what it encourages people to do.

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People who care about the free exchange of ideas — of any ideas, not merely the ideas that conform to the popular orthodoxies — are frustrated by a seeming paradox: though we are a free people living in an era of unparalleled connectivity in which the communication monopoly represented by old-fashioned media has effectively been […]

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How to Build a Computer 31: Sputtering

 

Today we answer an important question: “How do I coat things in metal; even things that don’t want to be coated in metal?” You want to plate gold onto you Sacajawea dollar, that’s easy enough. You can use electricity to get one metal to stick to another. You want to cover Jill Masterson you use gold paint. But let’s say you’ve got a little plastic doohickey you want to look at under an SEM. Plastic famously refuses to conduct electricity. So how do you defeat the charging problems? (The charging problems that we mentioned last time. You were paying attention, weren’t you?) The answer is you sputter coat it. And this week I’ll be explaining what that means.

Also in the SEM lab; you can tell by the example images they’ve stuck into the window.

Start with an Argon plasma. Hmm… maybe let’s start a little earlier than that. A plasma is a gas where the atoms have an electron stripped off. Also, the stripped off electrons. You’ve got to keep your plasma at a pretty high energy, otherwise your atoms recapture their electrons and you end up with a boring ol’ gas. If you’re the Sun then you can make a plasma by heating up these gases to an enormous temperature. On Earth that’s less convenient, so we use electricity.

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Wanting to limit carbon emissions without embracing nuclear energy is like… … wanting your kids to live healthy lives without getting them vaccinated. More

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I recently pitched talking about the early space race to a podcast which focuses on the Cold War. They accepted and I started reviewing my sources. In 2008, there was a program at the Naval Research Lab (NRL) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the launch of Vanguard 1. Then NASA administrator Mike Griffin was […]

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So, in 1994 I moved to Seattle, to join a startup founded by two of my fraternity brothers. How that resulted in the end of my first marriage has been covered in the PIT. More

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How to Build a Computer 30: SEMsational

 

This is a continuation of last time’s discussion on Electron Microscopy. In that one, we covered the question of why you’d want one of these and gave a summary of how you’d work one. Take some electrons, throw it at your sample, and watch what bounces off for information. Sounds so simple when we put it that way, right? This week we’re talking about what happens when you actually buckle down to do it in practice.

Taken from Chem lab, when there weren’t any chem techs around to stop me.

Okay, just looking at the thing isn’t doing me much good. What’s going on there, and why? Start from the top. That bottle on the left? That’s for liquid nitrogen, used in the x-ray detector. (Neat! Why do we want to detect x-rays? That’s a subject for a future column.) The cylinder on top marked “GEMINI” is your column; the electron gun is in the top, and the rest of it contains the magnets for focusing and directing the electron beam. The cube-ish box it’s sitting on is your sample chamber; the front pulls out to reveal the stage where you’d put your puck holding the samples. The dark grey table surface is granite, used to lend stability to the whole apparatus. The cabinet it’s sitting on contains electronics and the vacuum pumps. Now let’s get to how all that works together.

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Here’s a guest blog I wrote on Saturday which may be of interest to Ricochetti who are interested in the space program. It’s Gene Roe’s blog; his words are in italics. My apologies that some of this is repetitious with my other blatherings on R. Richard Easton contacted me yesterday to compliment Paul Ceruzzi on […]

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I don’t think NPR and PBS should exist. But given that they do, it’s nice to have a non ideological show on the space program. This one looks good. https://www.wliw.org/programs/american-experience/chasing-pbs-previews-chasing-moon/ More

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The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet ended its unsuccessful mission about three hours ago when, in the final moments of flight and barely five hundred feet from the lunar surface, it lost communication with earth and crashed on the moon. What would have been an enormous achievement for Israel and for private space exploration ended in disappointment, […]

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The GPS rollover last Saturday was mostly a nonevent (thankfully). But NYC has problems which continue: On April 6, something known as the GPS rollover, a cousin to the dreaded Y2K bug, mostly came and went, as businesses and government agencies around the world heeded warnings and made software or hardware updates in advance. More

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The second launch of the FH is scheduled for 6:35 pm today. I’m hoping that it’s successful. Perhaps we could retire SLS and redeploy the money more effectively. https://spaceflightnow.com/ More

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Beresheet: Apolune 466

 
A few weeks ago I wrote this post about Israel’s efforts to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon and become only the fourth nation to do so successfully. Yesterday, the Beresheet spacecraft successfully completed a critical maneuver, establishing its orbit around the moon with a greatest distance from the moon — an apolune — of 466 miles, and a perilune (closest distance) of 285 miles. It is expected to complete its journey this week, as planned, when it lands, on Thursday the 11th, in the Mare Serenitatis — the Sea of Serenity.

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I don’t work in IT, but I read an Axios article that argued that Huawei now controls 50% of the Fifth Generation market. It argued that this would allow China to access and control much of the world’s data, and if they beat the US to the Sixth Generation they would pull away from the […]

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This post presents a proposed paper on change in sexual orientation, based on two large, longitudinal studies of the U.S. population. It is a follow-up to my posts #2 and #5 of the same issue, but is substantially more detailed. My post #5 (here) demonstrated a change in homosexual orientation in adulthood of about 28% per […]

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This is a follow-up to my post #2 on changes in rates of change in homosexual orientation. Here is a proposed paper on change in homosexual orientation, principally based on data from Mock 2011.   More

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This is the fourth in my series of posts, seeking to focus on factual issues relevant to the moral and policy debate regarding homosexuality. This has been a beneficial to my effort to think clearly, thus far, and I hope that it has been helpful for others. I also hope that my overall tone has […]

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This is a follow-up to my two prior posts, Homosexuality Facts #1: Baby, You’re Not Born That Way (here) and Homosexuality Facts #2: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (here). This post addresses a point raised by Maj in response to my first post. The main conclusions of my first post were: More

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Welcome mama bears and daddy bears to this the 216th edition of the Harvard Lunch Club political podcast – the Kraft Bears edition of the show – with your unbearable hosts, east coast radio guy Todd Feinburg and west coast AI guy Mike Stopa. We come to you every week with the pithy, the provocative […]

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This is a follow-up to my prior post yesterday, Homosexuality Facts #1: Baby, You’re Not Born That Way. The prior posed addressed the state of scientific knowledge on the genetic component of homosexuality, if any. My prior post proposed to address a second question: Whether homosexuality is “immutable,” i.e. whether homosexuality can change, either on its […]

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