Most drugs don’t do anything significantly good or bad for most people who take them

October 25th, 2021

A statistic like relative risk reduction — which is far and away the most common one you’re getting — is not the statistic that you need in order to make an informed decision, David Epstein explains:

NNT is an abbreviation for “number needed to treat.” In other words: How many patients must be treated with the drug in order for a single patient to get the desired benefit?

When you read about drugs in the news — or even in most medical journals — you will almost never be explicitly given the NNT (which I will explain in more detail below). Instead, you’ll get relative risk reduction, a metric that a Michigan State med school dean once told me “is just another way of lying.”

[…]

Here’s a fictional example:

You read that a new drug reduces your chance of dying from Ryantastic syndrome by 40 percent. Here’s what that means in practice: if 10 in 100,000 people normally die from Ryantastic syndrome, and everyone takes the new drug, only 6 in 100,000 people will die from Ryantastic syndrome. Now let’s think about it from an NNT perspective.

For 100,000 patients who took the new drug, four deaths by Ryantastic syndrome were avoided, or one per 25,000 patients who took the drug. So the NNT is 25,000; that is, 25,000 patients must take the drug in order for one death-by-Ryantastic to be avoided. Ideally, you also want to know the NNH, or “number needed to harm.”

Let’s say that 1 in 1,000 patients who take the new drug suffer a particular grievous side effect. In that case, the NNH is 1,000, while the NNT is 25,000. Suddenly, the decision seems a lot more complicated than if you’re just told the drug will lower your chance of dying from Ryantastic syndrome by 40 percent.

Now let’s move to the real world: aspirin. Nearly five years ago, the NNT and NNH of aspirin caught my eye, so I included them in an article about medical evidence:

For elderly women who take it daily for a year to prevent a first heart attack, aspirin has an estimated NNT of 872 and an NNH of 436. That means if 1,000 elderly women take aspirin daily for a decade, 11 of them will avoid a heart attack; meanwhile, twice that many will suffer a major gastrointestinal bleeding event that would not have occurred if they hadn’t been taking aspirin.

[…]

Once I started looking at NNT and NNH data instead of relative risk, one of my main takeaways was that most drugs don’t do anything significantly good or bad for most people who take them.

Viruses integrate into our genome and get repurposed as regulators of host genes

October 24th, 2021

A new study explores the function of one part of “junk” DNA and shows that at least one family of transposons — ancient viruses that have invaded our genome by the millions — plays a href=”https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/931923″>a critical role in viability in the mouse, and perhaps in all mammals:

When the researchers knocked out a specific transposon in mice, half their mouse pups died before birth.

This is the first example of a piece of “junk DNA” being critical to survival in mammals.

In mice, this transposon regulates the proliferation of cells in the early fertilized embryo and the timing of implantation in the mother’s uterus. The researchers looked in seven other mammalian species, including humans, and also found virus-derived regulatory elements linked to cell proliferation and timing of embryo implantation, suggesting that ancient viral DNA has been domesticated independently to play a crucial role in early embryonic development in all mammals.

According to senior author Lin He, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology, the findings highlight an oft-ignored driver of evolution: viruses that integrate into our genome and get repurposed as regulators of host genes, opening up evolutionary options not available before.

If someone in America was ever obsessed with a story as a 12-year-old, it’s probably being made into a movie or TV show right now

October 23rd, 2021

For Hollywood, it is a golden age of intellectual property, Peter Suderman says, which is to say it is a golden age of adaptation:

Seemingly every beloved genre story from the last century has been optioned and auctioned, put into development, and often produced with lavish budgets and production in hopes that this old favorite will become the next Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, or, if one is really dreaming big — and who in Hollywood isn’t? — Star Wars or Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hollywood’s hit-makers have dug deep into the post-war canon of beloved adolescent fantasies: If someone in America was ever obsessed with a story as a 12-year-old, it’s probably being made into a movie or TV show right now.

If there is something missing from this bounty of adaptable IP, it’s classic science fiction. Although there have been scattered attempts to adapt the Golden Age masters — Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Frederick Pohl, Arthur C. Clarke — and their many literary successors in the half century since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, few of these efforts have made much impact. (Remember Will Smith’s I, Robot? That’s what I thought.)

[...]

Part of the problem is that these sci-fi stories tend to be challenging to adapt: They operate at a level of scale and socio-scientific complexity that is difficult to fit into the demands of a mainstream feature-film format, or even a prestige TV series. Classic sci-fi is thinky, intricate, idiosyncratic, and sprawling in a way that so far has largely resisted successful big-screen treatment. The best of it is almost too big for the big screen.

It is with a combination of joy and relief that he declares Villeneuve’s Dune the real deal:

It is a love letter to a science fiction classic, and, in a way, to all the classics of science fiction. It is a no-compromises future-fantasy epic that operates at a scale I’ve never quite seen before. I’ve already bought tickets to see it again.

[...]

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is half a masterpiece in a long-neglected genre, and half a science fiction masterpiece is far better than nothing at all.

Russia is willing to fight over the Arctic

October 22nd, 2021

Russia’s Ivan Papanin-class vessels are intended to be remarkably multipurpose ships designed to function as icebreakers, tugboats, transports, refrigerated cargo ships — and warships armed with deadly missiles:

They have an armored hull so they can clear a path through ice without the support of a dedicated icebreaker. “The vessel will be able to promptly deliver modules with repair shops, medical and housing blocks, and also groups of specialists to research and military bases in the Arctic,” said TASS. “The reefer ship will focus on delivering seafood from the Far East to European Russia.”

The first ship of the class – the eponymous Ivan Papanin – was launched in 2019 and is scheduled to be commissioned in 2023.

Armed with Kalibr missiles and a 76.2-millimeter gun, the Ivan Papanins will pack a fair bit of firepower for what is essentially an armed transport. How well such a jack-of-all-trades ship can perform each individual mission remains to be seen. In particular, while the Kalibr is a GPS-guided weapon that can hit long-range targets based on targeting data relayed from distant vessels and satellites, the Ivan Papanins will need a reliable datalink system to take full advantage of the Kalibr’s range.

More significant is the additional evidence that Russia is willing to fight over the Arctic, where melting polar ice is creating new shipping routes and revealing mineral riches. Russia has developed anti-aircraft missiles designed for Arctic conditions, as well as ground vehicles to support Moscow’s Arctic build-up, which also includes MiG-31 fighters, bombers and radar. The U.S. and other nations are responding, including the recent deployment of U.S. B-1 bombers to Norway, and American air and naval facilities in Norway.

The Caucasians wrote love poems to their daggers

October 21st, 2021

With the new Dune movie about to come out, I started reading one of the books that inspired it, Lesley Blanch’s 1960 novel, The Sabres of Paradise, a book I’ve discussed before:

Anyone who has obsessed over the mythology of Dune will immediately recognize the language Herbert borrowed from Blanch’s work. Chakobsa, a Caucasian hunting language, becomes the language of a galactic diaspora in Herbert’s universe. Kanly, from a word for blood feud among the Islamic tribes of the Caucasus, signifies a vendetta between Dune’s great spacefaring dynasties. Kindjal, the personal weapon of the region’s Islamic warriors, becomes a knife favored by Herbert’s techno-aristocrats. As Blanch writes, “No Caucasian man was properly dressed without his kindjal.”

Herbert is ecumenical with his borrowing, lifting terminology and rituals from both sides of this obscure Central Asian conflict. When Paul Atreides, Dune’s youthful protagonist, is adopted by a desert tribe whose rituals and feuds bear a marked resemblance to the warrior culture of the Islamic Caucasus, he lives at the exotically named Sietch Tabr. Sietch and tabr are both words for camp borrowed from the Cossacks, the Czarist warrior caste who would become the great Christian antagonists of Shamyl’s Islamic holy warriors.

Herbert also lifted two of Dune’s most memorable lines directly from Blanch. While describing the Caucasians’ fondness for swordplay, Blanch writes, “To kill with the point lacked artistry.” In Dune, this becomes “[k]illing with the tip lacks artistry,” advice given to a young Paul Atreides by a loquacious weapons instructor. A Caucasian proverb recorded by Blanch transforms into a common desert aphorism. “Polish comes from the city, wisdom from the hills,” an apt saying for a mountain people, becomes “Polish comes from the cities, wisdom from the desert” in Dune.

Dune’s narrative, however, owes more to The Sabres of Paradise than just terminology and customs. The story of a fiercely independent, religiously inspired people resisting an outside power is certainly not unique to the Caucasus, but Blanch’s influence can be found here, too. The name of Herbert’s major villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, is redolent of Russian imperialism. Meanwhile, Imam Shamyl, the charismatic leader of Islamic resistance in the Caucasus, describes the Russian Czar as “Padishah” and his provincial governor as “Siridar,” titles that Herbert would later borrow for Dune’s galactic emperor and his military underlings.

The introduction to the novel uses “Caucasian” literally, in its original sense, to unintentionally comedic effect:

The Caucasians wrote love poems to their daggers, as to a mistress and went to battle, as to a rendez-vous. Fighting was life itself to these darkly beautiful people — the most beautiful people in the world, it was said. They lived and died by the dagger. Battle-thrusts were the pulse of the race. Vengeance was their creed, violence their climate.

[...]

The baby prince Georghi Melikov, at an age when he might have been sucking his thumb, was running it over the blade of his kindjal, or two-edged dagger, lisping that it had been made for him by Mourtazali the celebrated armourer.

[...]

Severed enemy heads or hands were always good coinage in the Caucasus. A Tousheen girl’s dowry was reckoned in these trophies. The more dashing a young Caucasian delikan, or brave, the more severed hands dangled from his saddle bow. Right hands, of course; left hands hardly counted and the loss of one never stopped a Caucasian from fighting. Sliced-off ears, a less cumbersome method of indicating the number of heads taken, were usually strung along the whip thong. When one Chechen chieftain found his son dead of wounds, he cut his body into sixty pieces and sent out horsemen across the mountains and valleys, each with a fragment, to be given to his kinsmen and vassals. For each piece, an enemy head was returned. Thus was his son’s death avenged. Vengeance, vendetta or kanly, was often pursued through three or four generations, decimating whole families, till there was no-one left. A household was only reckoned poor, only pitied, when there was no-one fit to fight.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I read Dune, and it didn’t really work for me, but I did find it oddly compelling, and I think back to it more than I would have expected.

At the very least, it will teach you how to overthrow an empire and launch a new religion.

The Battle at Lake Changjin was sponsored by the Chinese government and deliberately timed for release before the country’s National Day holiday

October 20th, 2021

The Battle at Lake Changjin is a three-hour-long war epic about the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, and it has grossed $769 million in China since its release less than three weeks ago:

It’s currently on track to become the highest-grossing film in Chinese history, surpassing “Wolf Warriors II,” which made $882 million upon its release back in 2017.

As the Chinese box office is the largest in the world, “The Battle at Lake Changjin” is technically the biggest film in the international movie market, even outearning the new James Bond flick, “No Time To Die,” according to the industry outlet.

[…]

“The~ Battle at Lake Changjin” was sponsored by the Chinese government and deliberately timed for release on Sept. 30 — a day before the country’s National Day holiday.

The release of the big-budget blockbuster — which cost $200 million to make — also comes just months after China’s Communist Party celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The film’s release also coincides with Beijing’s growing aggression against Taiwan.

Over the weekend — as millions of Chinese moviegoers flocked to watch the film — it was reported that China has recently tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile.

We need to adjust to the technology that puts our intimate world and our remote world on the same screen

October 19th, 2021

Before the Internet and smart phones, there was a clear difference between what Arnold Kling calls the intimate world and the remote world:

The intimate world included the people with whom you interacted regularly — family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, the bowling team. The remote world was the world of celebrities, sports stars, politicians, criminals (am I repeating myself?). You followed them on television and in magazines.

On our smart phone, these two realms are indistinguishable. Your friends show up like celebrities, as they show off on social media. Swipe or scroll down, and now someone in the remote world is sharing a tweet with you.

Somehow, we need to adjust to the technology that puts our intimate world and our remote world on the same screen. Either we have to develop the instinct to keep these worlds separate from one another or else we have to adopt a set of cultural norms that allows us to live comfortably in a world in which the intimate world and the remote world are blended.

Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance

October 18th, 2021

In the fall of 1985, Gary Gygax was the most famous and powerful figure in hobby gaming, Jon Peterson explains:

October 22 was a Tuesday, and Gygax was wrapping up another day at TSR corporate headquarters on Sheridan Springs Road in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. His last appointment was a board meeting just after close of business; with 1,371 shares of stock, he held controlling interest in the company, and thus chaired the board. The meeting started late, at quarter past five. Five of the company’s six directors were present: two of the independent directors, James Huber and Wesley Sommer, and then the three principal shareholders: Gygax, Brian Blume, and Kevin Blume. Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance. Though they held a substantial stake in the company—as a family, nearly one thousand shares total—they had lost their executive positions at TSR following a reorganization the previous year.

The board proceeded to review the company’s turbulent negotiations with the American National Bank before moving on to the ostensible purpose of the meeting, a discussion regarding TSR’s royalty payments to authors. In recent internal memos, Gygax had insisted that the company allow its employees, himself especially, to retain all copyrights, trademarks, and royalties for works authored rather than assigning them to TSR; in the eyes of other directors, this was in violation of existing contracts. During the course of this discussion, Gygax mused that since it seemed the board would find it easier to afford him these privileges if he were not an employee, perhaps he should just resign.

It was of course preposterous for a majority shareholder to suggest their own resignation, but Gygax found the room coldly receptive to this course of action. The presence of the Blumes worried him. He turned to the Board Secretary, Willard Martens, to ask if his personal stake relative to the other shareholders had changed recently. At first, Martens replied only that Lorraine Williams had exercised her option for 50 shares in TSR. Williams had joined the company in April as Vice President of Administration; her options alone could not endanger Gygax’s majority.

“Have there been any other changes?” Gygax further inquired.

Martens only then volunteered, “Brian Blume exercised his option for seven hundred shares.”

Realization set in. Gary Gygax said simply, “I see.”

What did Gygax see, in that moment? He saw enough shares in play that he stood to lose control of TSR, a company he had founded and transformed into a global brand. But he surely also saw something even more dear at stake: that he might lose control of Dungeons & Dragons.

The two inferior techniques largely rely on pushing down against the water

October 16th, 2021

Alex Hutchinson reviews a recent study on the physiology of treading water efficiently:

They put 21 volunteers, all experienced water polo players, synchronized swimmers, or competitive swimmers who self-identified as water treading experts, through a series of physiological and cognitive tests while performing four different styles of treading. The verdict: some techniques really are substantially better than others.

The four techniques are as follows:

  1. Running in the water: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Hands and feet are moving up and down in a running-like motion.
  2. Flutter kick: Your hands are sculling back and forth along the surface of the water, while your legs do a flutter kick.
  3. Upright breaststroke: Your hands are still sculling along the surface of the water, but your legs are doing the distinctive frog kick of the breaststroke.
  4. Eggbeater: It’s similar to the upright breaststroke, with the key difference that your legs are kicking one at a time instead of synchronously, producing an eggbeater pattern of alternating circles with each leg.

[...]

There were clear differences in how efficient the different techniques were, with running and flutter kick performing equally poorly, and upright breaststroke and eggbeater performing equally well. This pattern showed up in every outcome measure.

[...]

Normally VO2 measurements are adjusted for weight, since heavier people burn more energy — but in this case, wet weight was used to also account for differences in buoyancy.

[...]

The two inferior techniques largely rely on pushing down against the water to move the body upward. This has two problems: water is too thin to provide much support, and even when the pushing works you get a lot of wasted up-and-down motion. The two better strokes, in contrast, involve lateral movements of the arms and legs: your cupped hand acts like an airplane wing or sailboat sail, generating lift forces perpendicular to the plane of motion. This is more efficient than pushing on the water, and produces less wasted vertical bobbing.

There’s one key difference between upright breaststroke and the eggbeater: in the former, your legs are kicking outward at the same time, while in the latter they’re alternating. This means that breaststroke produces some of that undesired up (when you kick) and down (between kicks) motion — and that effect is exacerbated if you stop sculling with your hands. In the eggbeater, there’s always one leg moving, so you get a smoother, more continuous lift that can keep you up even without your hands. The study didn’t test anything that required using your arms — but if you want to throw a water polo ball, strike a fancy pose during your synchro routine, or signal frantically to a passing ship that you need rescue, eggbeater looks like a much better bet.

Aviation mines use an acoustic-infrared sensor to identify the noise of an aircraft up to 3.2 km away and then launch a projectile when it’s within 150 meters

October 15th, 2021

Russia designed aviation mines in the late 1990s:

“Aviation mines reportedly function by using an acoustic-infrared sensor to first identify the noise of an aircraft at up to 3.2 kilometers and then launch a projectile at the identified aircraft when it is within 150 meters,” according to the U.S. Army’s OE Watch magazine, which monitors foreign military developments. “Although currently fielded Russian aviation mines can only hit low flying targets at a very short distance, their employment could greatly complicate Russia’s adversaries’ efforts to protect airfields, drop zones, and any other place where aircraft may fly low.”

The mines can be emplaced by ground troops or even air-dropped from helicopters using “a special ‘aviation’ version of the Bumerang anti-helicopter mine, with six (instead of four in the ‘ground’ version) stabilizing slings, which ensures the accuracy of the installation of anti-helicopter mines in the vertical plane,” according to an April 2021 article in Russian defense magazine Military Industrial Courier (Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer, or VPK). “These mines take stable vertical positions while still in flight, and the NVU [mine] is activated when coming into contact with the ground surface.”

The mines can be laid quickly, including a three-kilometer (1.9 mile)-long minefield emplaced in one hour by Russian sappers during an exercise in March 2018, VPK said. And they can remain functional for at least three months after placement. “The key factors influencing the duration of combat operation are primarily the temperature of the surrounding air and the number of the mine target guidance system activations,” said VPK. “Nevertheless, the minimum guaranteed time for its power source autonomous operation is 90 days.”

It’s a rejection of the casual, new money looks of the 2010s

October 14th, 2021

Prep is back:

The aesthetic first gained a foothold among Gen Z, who took to TikTok to share “old money” inspiration: polo, croquet, lush gardens, and Italian villages. These scenes became inspiration for both fashion and decor: riding boots, Gucci crossbody bags, floral wallpaper, and lots of vintage. Meanwhile, millennials picked up leisure-class hobbies like sailing and golfing during the “solitary leisure” days of quarantine.

In some ways, it’s a rejection of the casual, new money looks of the 2010s, on display both by Instagram influencers and the hoodie-wearing millennial billionaire class. In other ways, it’s a practical consequence of how a supply shortage and a lockdown changed the economy in ways that will be permanent. And in still another sense, it’s an expression of escape: away from the traumatic events of the young 2020s and toward a nostalgia for another time.

Oxford shirts, tennis skirts, and tweed blazers are taking over social media. Gen Z is plastering Ralph Lauren campaign ads from the ’90s and vintage tennis photos all over TikTok and Instagram — and they’re spending big to recreate the looks.

Vox’s Rebecca Jennings first reported on the “old money” aesthetic in fashion, writing that Gen Z lusts after “the unapologetically pretentious Ivy League-slash-Oxbridge fourth-cousin-of-a-Kennedy country club vibe.”

TikTok users have rediscovered prep and are driving the trend, Morgane Le Caer, content lead at Lyst, told Insider. The global fashion shopping platform has seen increasing demand for preppy styles. Over the week ending on September 24, searches for leather loafers were up by 28%, pleated skirts by 16%, Peter Pan collar shirts by 23%, and pearl necklaces by 29%.

[…]

It’s also a response to the casual outfits that typifies the new millennial billionaire class: Dressing in the polished way of a northeastern socialite is ultimately a rejection of the tech CEO’s hoodie and sneaker ensemble.

The old money aesthetic has also made its way inside homes.

The posh look first took root in form of the “grandmillennial” vibe that some millennials gravitated towards pre-pandemic, rich in porcelain figurines, English antiques, chintz wallpaper, and brocade curtains. They were seeking décor inspiration everywhere from English country houses to neo-preppy brands like Rodarte.

[…]

Country clubs, yacht clubs, and old money hobbies like golfing and boating have enjoyed a pandemic boom.

During quarantine, these pastimes replaced the group activities typical of social leisure, like amusement parks, concerts, and crowded bars and restaurants. And they continued to remain popular even as the economy reopened, especially as people grew wary of indoor activities again during the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

US boat sales hit a 13-year high last year, per the National Marine Manufacturers Association, with younger first-time boat buyers leading the way. Online resource Discover Boating saw site traffic increase by 90% year-over-year through May among those ages 18- to 24-years-old, with millennials comprising the largest number of visitors overall. Experts expect the upswing in interest to last for a long time.

A similar story is unfolding out on the green. Golf play in the US increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020, according to Golf Datatech, the largest uptick since the industry market research company began tracking the data in 1998. Even spending on golf equipment is on the rise, with retail sales up by nearly 50% in June, July, and August compared to those months two years prior, per data from The NPD Group.

More than anyone else, John von Neumann created the future

October 12th, 2021

More than anyone else, John von Neumann created the future:

He came up with a blueprint of the modern computer and sparked the beginnings of artificial intelligence. He worked on the atom bomb and led the team that produced the first computerised weather forecast. In the mid-1950s, he proposed the idea that the Earth was warming as a consequence of humans burning coal and oil, and warned that ‘extensive human intervention’ could wreak havoc with the world’s climate. Colleagues who knew both von Neumann and his colleague Albert Einstein said that von Neumann had by far the sharper mind, and yet it’s astonishing, and sad, how few people have heard of him.

Just like Einstein, von Neumann was a child prodigy. Einstein taught himself algebra at 12, but when he was just six von Neumann could multiply two eight-digit numbers in his head and converse in Ancient Greek. He devoured a 45-volume history of the world and was able to recite whole chapters verbatim decades later. ‘What are you calculating?’ he once asked his mother when he noticed her staring blankly into space. By eight he was familiar with calculus, and his oldest friend, Eugene Wigner, recalls the 11-year-old Johnny tutoring him on the finer points of set theory during Sunday walks. Wigner, who later won a share of the Nobel prize in physics, maintained that von Neumann taught him more about maths than anyone else.

Johnny’s plans (and by extension, the modern world) were nearly derailed by his father, Max, a doctor of law turned investment banker. ‘Mathematics,’ he maintained, ‘does not make money.’ The chemical industry was in its heyday so a compromise was reached that would mark the beginning of von Neumann’s peripatetic lifestyle: the boy would bone up on chemistry at the University of Berlin and meanwhile would also pursue a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Budapest.

All 14 systematic reviews undertaken by authors with histories of alcohol industry funding identified a cardioprotective effect of alcohol

October 11th, 2021

Researchers conducted a co-authorship network analysis of systematic reviews on the impacts on alcohol on cardiovascular disease (CVD) in order to investigate patterns of co-authorship in the literature, with particular attention given to industry funding:

60 systematic reviews with 231 unique authors met our inclusion criteria. 14 systematic reviews were undertaken by authors with histories of alcohol industry funding, including 5 that were funded directly by the alcohol industry itself. All 14 such reviews identified a cardioprotective effect of alcohol. These formed distinct co-authorship subnetworks within the literature. Of reviews by authors with no prior histories of alcohol industry funding, the findings were mixed, with 54% (25/46) concluding there was evidence of health protective effects.

We want to replace much more than 100% of current gas, coal, and oil with zero-carbon sources of electricity

October 10th, 2021

Over the centuries, Matthew Yglesias reminds us, people have invented many different kinds of machines that help us do things and improve living standards:

But in a very general way, what most of these inventions do is let us substitute some form of power for human effort. And as long as we were totally ignoring the costs of burning coal and oil, this was a great mechanism for progress — you invent new ways to do things by burning coal and oil, so then you burn more coal and oil.

But since the mid-1970s we’ve been increasingly aware of the limits and problems with this model, and it’s put us on an energy diet. Now when we invent something cool, we often have to say “too bad the energy requirements are so high.”

But as Ryan Avent (from whom I borrowed that chart) and others have written, this is a backward way of looking at things. The turn toward conservation and efficiency was a necessary evil in an era when we couldn’t come up with a better way to deal with geopolitical instability linked to oil and pollution linked to all forms of fossil fuels.

Instead, we should raise our clean energy production ambitions. We don’t want to replace 100% of our current dirty energy — we want to generate vastly more energy than we are currently using and make it zero carbon.

What difference does it make in how you look at it?

In the “energy is a necessary evil” frame, we look at our current electricity needs and then ask, “How can we generate all that from zero-carbon sources?” In the alternate framing, you say that to the extent we can develop affordable, zero-carbon sources of electricity, we want to generate tons and tons of electricity. Ideally, we would want to replace much more than 100% of current gas, coal, and oil with zero-carbon sources of electricity and use that to literally power a bold new era of rapid economic growth.

I find that this vision tends not to be intuitively compelling to a lot of people who are accustomed to living in the efficiency era. But let’s just imagine a world with small modular nuclear reactors and advanced geothermal energy production — a world in which we have plenty of baseline power. As our ability to make batteries gets better and better, we can put them all in vehicles rather than using them to address intermittent renewables. Then when the sun shines or the wind blows, we have even more power that we can use for stuff that doesn’t need to be on all the time. It’s a world of energy abundance — Lewis Strauss’ dream of electricity that’s “too cheap to meter.”

John Lennon was embarrassed by his former radicalism

October 9th, 2021

Today is John Lennon’s birthday, and I’d like to once again remind people that by 1979 Lennon was embarrassed by his former radicalism — at least according to Fred Seaman, who was his assistant at the time:

John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on Jimmy Carter.

[...]

I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who’s an old-time communist… He enjoyed really provoking my uncle… Maybe he was being provocative… but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he’d been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy’s naivete.