Link Roundup: October 10th, 2022

FYI, I was interviewed about romantic attraction and other things, for Honi Soit, a newspaper for the University of Sydney.  I like the article a lot, although I hope it’s not too dense, haha.

Summer of Math Exposition 2 | 3Blue1Brown (video and article series) – SoME2 is a contest to produce math explanation articles and videos.  I am all over this–although I’m also judgmental so I will say that the quality can be mixed.  The winners are a good place to start.

I’ve written quite a number of math explanations in the past myself, and this makes me want to write more.  Gosh it sure takes a lot of work though.  Maybe I could revamp my really old explanations, like the one about the Banach-Tarski paradox, or the ant & rubber band problem (the rubber band is the universe).

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Musical maturity and bad statistics

Among music-likers, it’s often said that your musical tastes are defined by what we enjoyed at age 14, or that our favorite music came out when we were 14. This claim comes from a 2018 article in the New York Times titled “The Songs That Bind” (paywalled). This article contains dubious statistical analysis, and its claims are probably false.

The article uses Spotify data, “on how frequently every song is listened to by men and women of each particular age.” There are two distinct ways of analyzing this data:

  1. The person level – Look at each individual, and see which songs they listen to most.
  2. The song level – Look at each song, and see which individuals listen to them the most.

So let’s read the article carefully and determine which analysis was used.
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Most approachable? A dialectical review of Elden Ring

Dark Souls and other games made by FromSoft are legendary for their fans’ elitism. The phrase, “git gud”, archetypically spoken to the souls newb who asks for advice on game forums, resonates throughout gaming discourse. “Souls-like” and “The Dark Souls of” are practically synonymous with video game difficulty, and the conversation around it.

But when FromSoft released Elden Ring this year, I loosely followed the fan subreddit, and found that elitism was not nearly as common as reputed. The phrase “git gud” was rarely used, and only then as a joke–and not a funny joke either, but the kind everyone else would groan at. Perhaps I’m looking at the wrong fan-sites, but my impression is that the fans have moved beyond elitism. They have come to recognize that, actually, it would be great if more people enjoyed this series, so that they could make more of it.

It’s possible that fans and critics and have overcorrected for past elitism, now declaring that Elden Ring is FromSoft’s “most approachable game yet.” Other critics have pushed back, highlighting how the game can still be unfriendly to newcomers. To explore this issue, I present two reviews from different perspectives.

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Closed square origami box

closed square origami box

Closed Square Origami Box, designer unknown

Some readers are interested in origami that they can actually make themselves.  The trouble with that is that many of the designs are quite complicated, or it’s difficult to get instructions that can be shared.  For original designs, it can take hours to draw diagrams even for relatively simple designs–and most of them are not very simple at all.  Other designs I get from books, and the diagrams are under copyright!  And for many designs, the only available instructions are the crease patterns.

Today I present a design that I happen to have diagrams for.  This closed square origami box is not my design, but I couldn’t find diagrams so I drew up some myself.  Someone also made a video.  Diagrams below the cut.

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Regulating data science with explanations

Data science has an increasing impact on our lives, and not always for the better. People speak of “Big Data”, and demand regulation, but they don’t really understand what that would look like. I work in one of the few areas where data science is regulated, so I want to discuss one particular regulation and its consequences.

So, it’s finally time for me to publicly admit… I work in the finance sector.

These regulations apply to many different financial trades, but for illustrative purposes, I’m going to talk about loans. The problem with taking out a loan is that you need to pay it back plus interest. The interest is needed to give lenders a return on their investment, and to offset the losses from other borrowers who don’t pay it off. Lenders can increase profit margins and/or lower interest rates if they can predict who won’t pay off their debt, and decline those people. Data science is used to help make those decline decisions.

The US imposes two major restrictions on the data science. First, there’s anti-discrimination laws (a subject I might discuss at a later time). Second, an explanation must be provided to people who are declined.

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Link Roundup: September 2022

In case anyone is interested, this month I wrote “How to tell if you’re allosexual, if you’re a journalist“, about low quality articles that seem intended to exploit SEO.

that female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough | Pervert Justice – Gatekeeping trans women from sports ultimately results in gatekeeping cis women as well.  I think this pragmatic argument isn’t the most satisfying, because it doesn’t make a positive case for the inclusion of trans women–but it is, after all, still correct.

Fixing My Brain with Automated Therapy | Jacob Geller (video, 53 min) – Jacob tried five different therapy apps, and talks about the history of teletherapy.  Plenty of interesting discussion, for instance, about how teletherapy constrains the kind of therapy.  He echoes what I’ve said about Eliza–this technology will be cheap, but bad.  More people could have access to therapy this way, and that’s a good thing… but it’s not good therapy.

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Talking about media you haven’t seen

Among people who are close to me, I am renowned for not liking movies or TV. If you’ve ever read my reviews of TV/movies, you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, as I generally do not like things enough to watch them in the first place. I think it’s great living this way, I can only imagine how many lifetimes I have saved by not watching all that stuff. It’s a shame that I waste that extra time by watching media criticism instead.

That’s right, I enjoy video essays that analyze media that I have never watched, and do not have any intention of ever watching. And I’m sure I’m not alone. In the past six years, YouTube media criticism has emerged as a popular genre—as well as an influential source of progressive commentary.

What’s incredible about these videos, is that they appear to have solved one of my lifelong struggles. How do we have a discussion about unshared media—media that not everyone in the audience has experienced?

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