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DeepMind finally cracks the protein-folding problem at the CASP14 competition (Or rather, is almost there; see here and here for a more sober take). As noted here a while back, it's astonishing to observe how outsiders have come into a field and solved the core problem the field had been working on for decades. Good news in that it means there may be free lunches waiting for us when better equipped outsiders (With money, AI, or anything else) enter new fields. Does this constitute a solution of the static …

Was Planck right? The effects of aging on the productivity of scientists

Note: I am using Andy Matuschak's new Orbit project to add spaced repetition prompts to the blogpost to help you remember the content. Let me know what you think! Scientists are getting older. Some have expressed concern at that fact. While the motivations for that concern are not always explicit, it usually boils down to two: One, a matter of fairness. Science getting older may mean that it's not making room for younger scientists; older scientists would be sitting in a limited number of chairs for …

Peer rejection in science

One of the points that Braben makes in Scientific Freedom, and one that others have made elsewhere, is that science is not as welcoming of new ideas as it may seem. The process of peer review stands in the way of new breakthroughs, and one man's crankery is another's brilliant insight, or so goes the story. The examples of this that probably come to mind are old: Galileo and heliocentrism or perhaps Semmelweis and hand washing and in general the germ theory of disease. So one may think that science used to …

Links (42)

On the statistics of individual variations of productivity in research laboratories Everything you always wanted to know about saturated fat Peter Mitchell and the ox phos wars, when OXPHOS was controversial Langmuir on pathological science Sydney Brenner "How academia and publishing are destroying scientific innovation" What people don’t realise is that at the beginning, it was just a handful of people who saw the light, if I can put it that way. So it was like belonging to an evangelical sect, …

Are ideas getting harder to find?

Are ideas getting harder to find? (2020) by Nicholas Bloom, Chad Jones, John van Reenen and Michael Webb repeatedly pops up in discussions of technological progress, the great stagnation and related topics. They take a different angle from the usual, rather than debating whether there is stagnation or not in a range of metrics (Like TFP, Moore's law, crop yields), they instead opt for taking the optimistic view (That those metrics are advancing as usual, in some of their models) and calculate instead how mu…

What should you remember? SRSing your life

In my Bloom's Two sigma essay, in section 12, What should you learn I was thinking about a problem that comes before the question of the optimal learning method. Once one has decided, say, that one wants to start practicing SRS, what should one SRS? Should a software engineer SRS their programming language of choice? Of course not: They are using it all the time. Spaced repetition works, but knowledge or skills you use every day are effectively built in SRS. There is also knowledge one is exposed to daily t…