Telemedicine is rehospitalized

Saturday, October 15th, 2022

Before Covid, telehealth accounted for less than 1% of outpatient care. Then it shot up — to as high as 40% of outpatient visits for mental health and substance use. Now telemedicine is declining:

Over the past year, nearly 40 states and Washington, D.C., have ended emergency declarations that made it easier for doctors to use video visits to see patients in another state, according to the Alliance for Connected Care, which advocates for telemedicine use.

Alex Tabarrok knows people who have had to travel over the Virginia–Maryland border just to find a wifi spot to have a telemedicine appointment with their Maryland physician.

When people get richer, they get more resilient

Friday, October 14th, 2022

We are incessantly told about disasters — heat waves, floods, wildfires, and storms — when people have become much, much safer from all these weather events over the past century:

In the 1920s, around half a million people were killed by weather disasters, whereas in the last decade the death toll averaged around 18,000. This year, like both 2020 and 2021, is tracking below that. Why? Because when people get richer, they get more resilient.

Weather-fixated television news would make us think disasters are all getting worse. They’re not. Around 1900, about 4.5 per cent of the land area of the world burned every year. Over the last century, this declined to about 3.2 per cent In the last two decades, satellites show even further decline: in 2021 just 2.5 per cent burned. This has happened mostly because richer societies prevent fires. Models show that by the end of the century, despite climate change, human adaptation will mean even less burning.

And despite what you may have heard about record-breaking costs from weather disasters — mainly because wealthier populations build more expensive houses along coastlines — damage costs are actually declining, not increasing, as a per cent of GDP.

But it’s not only weather disasters that are getting less damaging despite dire predictions. A decade ago, environmentalists loudly declared that Australia’s magnificent Great Barrier Reef was nearly dead, killed by bleaching caused by climate change. The Guardian newspaper even published an obituary. This year, scientists revealed that two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef shows the highest coral cover seen since records began in 1985. The good-news report got a fraction of the attention the bad news did.

Not long ago, environmentalists constantly used pictures of polar bears to highlight the dangers of climate change. Polar bears even featured in Al Gore’s terrifying movie An Inconvenient Truth. But the reality is that polar bear numbers have been increasing — from somewhere between five and 10,000 polar bears in the 1960s up to around 26,000 today. We don’t hear this news, however. Instead, campaigners just quietly stopped using polar bears in their activism.

Solid-state batteries do not catch fire when they malfunction

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

NASA’s Solid-state Architecture Batteries for Enhanced Rechargeability and Safety (SABERS) have certain advantages over liquid batteries:

Instead of housing each individual battery cell inside its own steel casing, as liquid batteries do, all the cells in SABERS’s battery can be stacked vertically inside one casing. Thanks in part to this novel design, SABERS has demonstrated solid-state batteries can power objects at the huge capacity of 500 watt-hours per kilogram – double that of an electric car.

“Not only does this design eliminate 30 to 40 percent of the battery’s weight, it also allows us to double or even triple the energy it can store, far exceeding the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries that are considered to be the state of the art,” Viggiano said.

Safety is another key requirement for the use of batteries in electric aircraft. Unlike liquid batteries, solid-state batteries do not catch fire when they malfunction and can still operate when damaged, making them attractive for use in aviation.

SABERS researchers have tested their battery under different pressures and temperatures, and have found it can operate in temperatures nearly twice as hot as lithium-ion batteries, without as much cooling technology. The team is continuing to test it under even hotter conditions.

It all goes back to a well-heeled cock

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

I didn’t know the origin of “well-heeled,” so I looked it up:

Originally American English, from a literal use in cockfighting: a well-heeled cock was provided with sharp spurs and could inflict maximum damage. From this developed the American frontier slang sense of being well-equipped, and thence the modern sense of being well supplied with money.

Scientific authority is one of the foundations of power in our society

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Scientific authority is one of the foundations of power in our society, Samo Burja notes:

Consider a scientific study demonstrating a new medicine to be safe and efficacious. An FDA official can use this study to justify the medicine’s approval, and a doctor can use it to justify a patient’s treatment plan. The study has this legitimacy even when incorrect.

In contrast, even if a blog post by a detail-oriented self-experimenter contained accurate facts, those facts would not have the same legitimacy: a doctor may be sued for malpractice or the FDA may spark public outcry if they based their decisions on reports of this sort. The blog itself would also risk demonetization for violating terms of service, which usually as a matter of policy favors particular “authoritative” sources.

Intellectual authority is too useful to power centers to be ignored:

It will be deployed, one way or another. Social engineers have used it to guide behavior, loyalties, and flows of resources for all of recorded history, and likely long before as well. The most impressive example is the Catholic Church, which built its authority on the interpretation of religious matters, synthesizing human psychology, law, and metaphysics. The state church of the Roman Empire outlived the empire by many centuries. By the 11th century, Church authority was sufficient to organize and pursue political aims at the highest level. It was sufficient to force the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV to kneel for three days as a blizzard raged, waiting for the Pope’s forgiveness. Few military and political victories are as clear. The Pope was revealed to be more powerful than kings.

The power of the Pope didn’t rest primarily in his wealth, armies, or charisma. Rather it rested on a claim of final authority in matters of theology, a field considered as or even more prestigious than cosmology is today. This can be compared to the transnational influence of contemporary academia on policy and credibility.

Such exercises of power weren’t completely unopposed. Today it is often forgotten that Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses and debates such as that at the Diet of Worms were first a challenge of intellectual authority, and only consequently a political struggle. The centuries-long consequences of the Protestant Reformation are myriad, but one of them is the negative connotation of the word “authority” in the English-speaking West. Protestant pamphlets had harsh and at times vulgar critiques of Papal “authority.” Merely making a word carry a negative connotation didn’t stop Protestant nations such as England or Sweden from creating their own state churches with much the same structure as the Catholic Church. Their new institutional authority was then a transformation of the old, using much the same social technology, rather than a revolution.

Inheritance of such authority shows some surprising patterns. The Anglican Church would famously have its own dissenters who ended up settling in the North American colonies. America’s Ivy League universities run on a bequeathment of intellectual authority which they first acquired as divinity schools serving different denominations of the many experiments in theocracy that made up the initial English colonies of the region. Harvard’s founding curriculum conformed to the tenets of Puritanism and used the University of Cambridge as its model. Amusingly, the enterprising Massachusetts colonists decided to rename the colony of Newtowne to Cambridge a mere two years after Harvard’s founding. Few attempts to bootstrap intellectual authority by associating with a good name are quite as brazen!

Many know that the University of Pennsylvania served the Quakers of Pennsylvania, since the colony and consequently the university was named after its founder, the Quaker thinker William Penn. But fewer know Yale was founded as a school for Congregationalist ministers and that Princeton was founded because of Yale professors and students who disagreed with prevalent Congregationalist views. The intellectual authority of modern academia can be traced back to an era when theology was the basis of its intellectual authority. Today, theology has nothing to do with it and the authority has been re-justified on new grounds. This shows that intellectual authority can be inherited by institutions even as they change the intellectual justification of that authority.

That such jumps are possible allows for interesting use of social technology, such as the King of Sweden bestowing credibility on physicists through the Nobel Prize or Elon Musk ensuring that non-technical employees at his companies listen to engineers through designing the right kind of performance art. Different types of intellectual authority are easily conflated for both good and bad. This also explains why we see uncritical belief in those who wear the trappings of science without doing science itself. When medicine suffered a worse reputation than science in the 19th century, doctors adapted by starting to wear white lab coats. This trick in particular continues to work in the present day.

Intellectual golden ages occur when new intellectual authority is achievable for those at the frontiers of knowledge. This feat of social engineering that legitimizes illegible but intellectually productive individuals is then upstream of material incentives, which is why a merely independently wealthy person cannot just throw money at any new scientific field or institution and expect it to grow in legitimacy. It ultimately rests on political authority. The most powerful individuals in a society must lend their legitimacy to the most promising scientific minds and retract it only when they fail as scientists, rather than as political players. The society in which science can not just exist, but flourish, is one where powerful individuals can elevate people with crazy new ideas on a whim.

The dreams of automating scientific progress with vast and well-funded bureaucracies have evidently failed. This is because bureaucracies are only as dynamic as the live players who pilot them. Without a live player at the helm who is a powerful individual in control of the bureaucracy, the existing distribution of legitimacy is just frozen in place, and more funding works only to keep it more frozen rather than to drive scientific progress forward. Powerful individuals will not always make the right bets on crazy new ideas and the crazy people who come up with them, but individuals have a chance to make the right bets, whereas bureaucracies can only pretend to make them. Outsourcing science to vast and well-funded bureaucracies then gives us the impression of intense work on the cutting edge of science, but without any of the substance.

The solution is not just to grant more funding and legitimacy to individual scientists rather than scientific bureaucracies, but to remind powerful individuals, and especially those with sovereign authority, that if they don’t grant this legitimacy, no one else will. Science lives or dies on personal endorsement by powerful patrons. Only the most powerful individuals in society can afford to endorse the right immature and speculative ideas, which is where all good ideas begin their life cycle.

There are no Black Valyrians

Sunday, October 9th, 2022

“Game of Thrones” superfans Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr. have been collaborating with George R.R. Martin since before HBO’s hit adaptation of his “A Song of Ice and Fire” books, but when Martin publicized their new book on social media, they were “called out” for their supposed racism:

Soon after Antonsson and García created online forum in 1999, Martin recruited them as fact-checkers for his book “A Feast for Crows.” In 2014, they served as coauthors on “The World of Ice & Fire,” an illustrated companion book for the series of novels.

Critics have taken issue with Antonsson’s blog posts, some dating to more than a decade ago, in which she decries the casting of people of color in “Game of Thrones” to play characters that are white in Martin’s books. In one post from March 2012, for example, Antonsson complained about Nonso Anozie, a Black man, getting cast in the role of Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who is described as pale in the books. Five months later, she celebrated the fact that white actor Ed Skrein was cast to play Daario Naharis, despite a rumor claiming the network was looking to fill the role with someone of another ethnicity.

More recently, Antonsson wrote that the character of Corlys, portrayed by Steve Toussaint on “House of the Dragon,” was miscast. “There are no Black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show,” she said of the common ancestors of Velaryons and Targaryens.

Antonsson contends that upset fans are criticizing “cherry-picked statements stripped of context.” She tells Variety that it bothers her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building.” According to the author, she has no issue with inclusive casting, but she strongly believes that “diversity should not trump story.”

“If George had indeed made the Valyrians Black instead of white, as he mused on his ‘Not a Blog’ in 2013, and this new show proposed to make the Velaryons anything other than Black, we would have had the same issue with it and would have shared the same opinion,” Antonsson says.

The firm took four non-consensus positions

Saturday, October 8th, 2022

Y Combinator is not really a VC firm:

Depending on how you parse it, you can make a case that it’s any one of these five things:

  1. A university that treats companies, not people, as the atomic unit
  2. A startup that monetizes through an uncapped income share agreement
  3. A for-profit college that scales (and is not a scam)
  4. A social network for some of the world’s best entrepreneurs
  5. An industrialized venture firm


It does not seem hyperbolic to suggest it may be among the most consequential entities across industries of the last twenty years. Not only did YC support Airbnb, Stripe, Coinbase, DoorDash, Flexport, Rappi, Reddit, Vanta, and many others, it popularized a now-ubiquitous philosophy of company building. “Make something people want,” “do things that don’t scale,” and “getting to default alive” are gospels that owe their proliferation to YC. Over time, it has turned its success into a series of compounding advantages that make it look very different than anyone else in the market.


None of YC’s founders had ever been venture capitalists before. To learn as quickly as possible, they landed on the idea to fund a “batch” of companies, all at once. Rather than learning from ten startups stretched over an investment period of three years, they’d follow that many over just three months.


In hindsight, many of YC’s core innovations were visible in this first class. The firm took four non-consensus positions:

  1. Investing terms needed to be standardized. Seed funding was immature when YC got started. As a result, there were no benchmarks for typical deal terms. Founders often cobbled together cash from family and friends. YC decided to standardize the process by offering $20,000 for roughly 6% equity.
  2. Entrepreneurship is teachable. Innovation is often depicted as resulting from a single stroke of genius rather than a concerted process. YC’s curriculum challenged this notion by teaching new founders how to build a business, step by step.
  3. Hackers make for better founders than suits. YC is optimized for a different kind of entrepreneur. Rather than pursuing grey-haired executives ready to leave the bower of big business, it sought technologically-gifted youngsters. Over the next two decades, this would become the prototypical profile for tech entrepreneurs.
  4. Startups can be funded synchronously. Venture capital firms traditionally funded companies one at a time. By experimenting with funding ten businesses at once, YC uncovered a crucial lesson: connecting early-stage entrepreneurs to one another is extremely valuable. This marked the beginning of YC’s network effects.

Reddit proved to be the breakout winner of the batch, though it took some time for it to fully play out. Several other startups, including Parakey and TextPayMe, were acquired.

On an individual level, the caliber of talent assembled was extremely impressive. YC’s summer 2005 batch (abbreviated to “S05”) included Sam Altman, Alexis Ohanian, Steve Huffman, Aaron Schwartz, Brett Gibson, Blake Ross, Joe Hewitt, Emmett Shear, and Justin Kan. Outside of Reddit, that constellation has been involved with the creation of companies and funds including Twitch, Firefox, Initialized Capital, Seven Seven Six, and OpenAI.


Many connections within the YC community occur on the internal platform, Bookface, which grew out of one of the accelerator’s creations: Hacker News. In 2006, Paul Graham launched Hacker News (then called Startup News) as a way for YC founders to communicate, connect, and ask for help. The following year, it was opened up to the public. Eventually, in 2013, YC formally bifurcated the platform: the external forum retained the Hacker News name while the internal version became Bookface. Today, it acts as a place for YC’s 7,000 founders to connect, ask questions, and learn from one another — a private social network for some of the world’s best entrepreneurs. Many end up partnering or selling their products to one another.

It turns out there wasn’t a next Palantir or SpaceX

Friday, October 7th, 2022

Anduril is a rare, paradoxical creation, Mario Gabriele argues: a defense contractor that moves like a startup, a software business disguised as a seller of hardware, and a weapons manufacturer, in pursuit of peace:

Anduril is a company that few in Silicon Valley thought needed to exist. Because of the foresight of Trae Stephens and Palmer Luckey, America and its allies have a software-first defense provider capable of impacting current conflicts.


Before joining Palantir in 2008, Stephens had spent time at the offices of Ohio congressman Rob Portman and the Afghan embassy in Washington D.C. His public sector work seemed to skew towards the technical, with Stephens “building enterprise solutions to Arabic/Persian name matching” for the Intelligence community. Stephens used and bolstered this experience as part of his six-year stint at Palantir.

While venture capital rarely draws from defense backgrounds, there is an exception: Founders Fund. Established by Peter Thiel, Ken Howery, and Luke Nosek in 2005, Founders Fund holds a unique position at the nexus of Silicon Valley and Washington D.C, thanks to Thiel’s co-founding of Palantir and particular geopolitical worldview. The firm was early to back SpaceX (one of the few recent startups to secure meaningful governmental contracts), while Ken Howery went on to serve as ambassador to Sweden during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Stephens was a neat fit at Founders Fund, as was his mission to find the next great defense business. SpaceX and Palantir had made significant impacts, but they were the rarest of exceptions. By and large, venture-backed startups had failed to disrupt the established patterns of the public sector in general and military in particular. Stephens was hopeful a new generation of entrepreneurs would change that.

Despite his best efforts, Stephens came up empty-handed. “I didn’t find anything,” he said. With the benefit of hindsight, the investor noted there wasn’t a business he had overlooked: “There was nothing to miss. It turns out there wasn’t a next Palantir or SpaceX.”

Though Stephens didn’t find a ready-made defense startup during this period, he did meet a founder who would play a starring role in Anduril’s creation: Palmer Luckey.

A year before Stephens started his venture career, Luckey set out to raise a Series A for his virtual-reality startup, Oculus. He found a willing partner in Founders Fund, who became the company’s “first institutional investor,” per Stephens.

It took little time for that faith to pay off. By March the following year, Facebook announced it had acquired Oculus for approximately $2 billion in a mix of cash and stock. Barely twenty years old, Luckey was suddenly a wealthy man.

Around the time of that acquisition, Stephens and Luckey got to know one another, discovering themselves to be somewhat kindred spirits. “He was super interested in national security,” Stephens said of Luckey. That fascination pre-dated Luckey’s creation of Oculus. Indeed, while working at Bravemind, an organization that uses VR to treat veterans with PTSD, Luckey first created a prototype of his revolutionary headset.

For the next three years, Stephens and Luckey stayed in touch. By 2017, much had changed for them both. In March of that year, Facebook fired Luckey, a decision he claimed was politically motivated, catalyzed by a $10,000 donation he had made to pro-Trump “shitposting” organization, Nimble America.

Meanwhile, Stephens had reached an impasse in his search for a modern defense prime contractor (a “prime”). It was increasingly clear that if he wanted such an organization to emerge, he would have to build it himself. He made his pitch to Luckey, explaining the status quo as he saw it. In particular, Stephens saw two major shifts to which America’s military had failed to adapt:

  1. The shift to software. Defense technology had traditionally been hardware first. Stephens was confident that future wars would be defined by software that worked in concert with intelligent devices and machinery.
  2. The brain-drain. In previous eras, the military could reliably attract the best technical talent. Historic minds like John von Neumann lent their abilities to branches of the armed forces. That is no longer the case. Today, many of the best technologists work at companies like Google and Meta. “We’re not in a position where our best and brightest are working on national security,” Stephens said.

Luckey was impressed with Stephens’ diagnosis and proposed cure. “He was super excited about it,” the investor recalled. The two began work on the company that would come to be called “Anduril.” As with many Thiel-affiliated entities (see: Palantir, Valar, Mithril), the business took its moniker from Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s books, “Andúril” is the name of a mythical sword which means “Flame of the West” in elven tongue.


On June 6, 2017, Anduril’s founders officially set to work on its first product: a sentry tower that leverages artificial intelligence to monitor border crossings. “It was totally Palmer’s idea,” Stephens said, noting that Luckey had sketched prototypes before Anduril had gotten off the ground. It can take years for a defense contractor to ship a new product; Anduril had its sentry tower in the field within six months.


Despite the unpopularity of its work, Anduril kept shipping. It followed the sentry tower with sensors, drones, and autonomous submarines. Though these products represented hardware innovations, the heartbeat of Anduril’s work was its orchestrating software system, Lattice.


The software system acts as a command hub, pulling in information from sensors, drones, and other field assets. Using artificial intelligence and computer vision, Lattice constructs a live, detailed view of a battlefield, accessible via computer, tablet, or VR headset. Critically, Lattice is built such that it can sync with assets made by other companies. It is an open system that seeks to play nicely with third parties.

In addition to intuitively presenting important information, Lattice streamlines decision-making. It does so by offering potential next moves. For example, if a field sensor identifies an enemy drone, it will show up on Lattice along with a prompt to intercept it. In the push of a button, an operative can decide to send an asset to meet and disable it.

Low height off the ground and innate agility

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

I was pretty sure that corgis weren’t bred simply to look ridiculous, but I didn’t know exactly what they were bred for:

Welsh Corgis were cattle herding dogs; the type of herding dog referred to as “heelers”, meaning that they would nip at the heels of the larger animals to keep them on the move. The combination of their low height off the ground and the innate agility of Welsh Corgis would allow them to avoid the hooves of cattle.

I love the notion of being too short to kick.

I remember being amused years ago when I learned that the similarly short-legged dachshund was a fierce badger-hound:

The standard-sized dachshund was developed to scent, chase, and flush out badgers and other burrow-dwelling animals. The miniature dachshund was bred to hunt small animals such as rabbits.

That date marks one of the most creative periods of conceptual design for any fighter aircraft

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

When the F-22 design team struggled to meet its weight and unit-cost goals, it decided to step back and open up the design to more fundamental changes:

“After a bloody debate, we agreed to trash the current design and start over,” says Mullin. “Over that weekend, we brought in a new director of design engineering, Dick Cantrell, flew in people, and started a ninety-day fire drill. Work started on Monday 13 July. That date marks one of the most creative periods of conceptual design for any fighter aircraft. We looked at different inlets, different wings, and different tail combinations. One configuration had two big butterfly tails and looked somewhat like the F-117, though people did not know that since the F-117 was still highly classified. The configuration search was wide open, but the biggest single change that resulted from it was to go with diamond-shaped wings.”

The concentrated configuration search began with a slew of possible designs. The search complicates the numbering scheme considerably, as diamond wings, twin tails (two tails instead of four), various inlet shapes, and various forebody shapes were all considered and reconsidered simultaneously in the summer of 1987.


“The fundamental reason for going to a diamond wing was that it provided the lightest configuration and gave us the best structural efficiency and all the control power we needed for maneuvering,” Mullin explains. “The biggest consideration was its light weight. Weight drove the decision.”

“A diamond wing has more square feet of surface area, but is more structurally efficient,” adds Renshaw. “The longer root chord provides a more distributed load path through the fuselage. Multiple bulkheads carry the bending loads. The design provides more opportunity to space the bulkheads around the internal equipment. It also provides more fuel volume.”

“The structural engineers wanted a diamond wing because it provides a larger root chord, which carries bending moments better,” Hardy notes. “The aerodynamicists wanted a trapezoidal wing because it provides more aspect ratio, which is good for aerodynamics. Dick Heppe, the president of Lockheed California Company, made the final decision, and he was right. The aerodynamics were not all that different, but the structure and weights were significantly better. So we went to a diamond shape. The big root chord, though, moved the tails back. Eventually we even had to notch the wing for the front of the tails. If the tails moved farther back, they would fall off the airplane.”

Once the wings were set with Configuration 614, subsequent configurations dealt with the tail arrangement. “We spent a lot of wind tunnel time looking at the tails,” recalls Lou Bangert, the chief engineer for engine integration from Lockheed. “From late 1987 to early 1988, we were engaged in what we called ‘the great tail chase.’ We knew we would have four tails, but where they would go was a big deal. A small change in location often made a huge difference. We had to look at performance effects, stealth effects, stability and control, and drag at the same time. The tail arrangement and aft end design were important design considerations for all of these effects.”

Wind tunnel results showed an ultra-sensitive relationship between the placement of the vertical tails and the design of the forward fuselage. The interactions could not be predicted accurately by analysis or by computational fluid dynamics. The airflow over the forebody at certain angles of attack affects the control power exerted by the twin rudders on the vertical tails. Getting the airflow right was critical.

The cant and sweep angles of the vertical tails could not be altered too much because such changes increased radar signature. In finding a suitable arrangement, the control system designers were constrained by the radar signature requirements to moving the tail locations laterally or longitudinally and to shrinking or enlarging them while holding the shape essentially constant. By the end of the dem/val phase, the team had accumulated around 20,000 hours in the wind tunnel. A lot of this time was devoted to tail placement studies.

Talent and not money is the truly scarce variable

Tuesday, October 4th, 2022

Rob Henderson finds Tyler Cowen’s latest book, written with Daniel Gross, thorough yet breezy, providing useful tips for how to develop a talent-spotting mindset with insights from psychometrics, management, economics, and sociology:

Cowen and Gross note that in the U.S., from 1980 to 2000, the main cause of income inequality was whether a person graduated from college. But from 2000 to 2017, income inequality primarily existed within educational groupings. In other words, talent appears to be more responsible than education for economic returns.

Cowen and Gross each describe how often they reject proposals, and they conclude that “talent and not money is the truly scarce variable.” But where does it come from? They acknowledge that talent can differ between individuals, but they also stress the importance of practice. Indeed, those with the potential to cultivate serious talent sometimes practice to the point of obsession. Discussing which attributes predict eminence in a field, psychology professor David Lubinski has said that passion for work is key, and that highly creative people tend to be “almost myopically” fixated on work.

Relatedly, Cowen and Gross observe, “If you are hiring a writer, look for signs that the person is writing literally every day. If you are hiring an executive, try to discern what they are doing all the time to improve networking, decision-making, and knowledge of the sectors they work in.” Developing the habit of practice and self-discipline — the authors describe it as “sturdiness” — is critical for talent acquisition. “Sturdiness is the quality of getting work done every day, with extreme regularity and without long streaks of non-achievement,” they write. “If you are a writer, sturdiness is a very powerful virtue, even if you do not always feel you are being extremely productive.”

Accordingly, the book cites research indicating that perseverance is a stronger predictor than passion for success. When it comes to achievement, persistence pays off more than pure passion.

The authors’ favorite interview question about browser tabs is meant to tap into this question about whether a person spends his or her free time practicing. What the book describes as “downtime revealed preferences” are more interesting than “stories about your prior jobs.” For instance, asking what newsletters or subreddits a person reads is often more illuminating than asking what a person did at their previous job.

The book is very much about identifying high performers, as opposed to average workers. This is particularly true of its interview section, which gives guidance on unstructured, as opposed to structured, interviews. Most research indicates that interviews are more effective for higher-level jobs.

Talent provides several fascinating questions designed to yield interesting answers. How did you prepare for this interview? What’s a story one of your references might tell me when I call them? Which of your beliefs are you most likely wrong about? Whether the candidate can draw on intellectual and emotional resources to answer is a sign of broader stores of intellect and energy that he or she will bring to the job. The authors suggest that interviewers should not be afraid to let a question hang in the air after asking it; better to hold the tension to make clear you expect an answer.

The authors suggest using challenging and unusual questions to identify those with more style than substance. As they put it, “Beware of verbally adept storytellers.” Most of us have a bias toward well-spoken and articulate individuals. Bear this in mind, for it can lead you to hire what the authors describe as “glib but unsubstantial people.” They conclude this line of advice with, “Do not overestimate the importance of a person’s articulateness.”

Everything wants to be at the center of gravity

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

The basic challenge of designing the F-22 was to pack stealth, supercruise, highly integrated avionics, and agility into an airplane with an operating range that bettered the F-15, the aircraft it was to replace:

“One problem we typically face when trying to stuff everything inside an airplane is that everything wants to be at the center of gravity,” Hardy explains. “The weapons want to be at the center of gravity so that when they drop, the airplane doesn’t change its stability modes. The main landing gear wants to be right behind the center of gravity so the airplane doesn’t fall on its tail and so it can rotate fairly easily for takeoffs. The fuel volume wants to be at the center of gravity, so the center of gravity doesn’t shift as the fuel tanks empty. Having the center of gravity move as fuel burns reduces stability and control. We also had to hide the engine face for stealth reasons. So, these huge ducts had to run right through the middle of real estate that we wanted to use for everything else. The design complexities result in specialized groups of engineers arguing for space in the airplane. That was the basic situation from 1986 through 1988.”

Corbett regarded total command of the sea with skepticism

Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

Ukraine’s success in contesting the skies turns the West’s airpower paradigm on its head, because it offers an alternative vision for pursuing airspace denial over air superiority:

In rethinking America’s approach to airpower, pundits should look to Mahan’s contemporary, the British naval theorist Sir Julian Corbett. Corbett regarded total command of the sea with skepticism, arguing the “most common situation in naval warfare is that neither side has the command.” He favored a relative, rather than an absolute, interpretation of command of the sea, calling for a “working command,” delimited in time or space — “sea control” in today’s parlance. Similarly, Douhet’s absolute rule of the skies may be desirable, but air forces may get by with more limited control of the airspace, or temporary and localized air superiority.

For Corbett, the corollary of sea control is sea denial. If a navy is not strong enough to gain command of the sea, he argued, it could still attempt to limit or deny the other side ability to make use of the sea. He referred to this concept as “disputing command,” and offered two main methods: a “fleet in being” and “minor counterattacks.” He envisioned an active defense, in which a smaller navy could avoid battle but still remain threatening as a “fleet in being” by staying active and mobile. “The idea,” he explained,” was “to dispute control by harassing operations, to exercise control at any place or at any [opportune] moment … and to prevent the enemy from exercising control in spite of his superiority by continually occupying his attention.” Additionally, an inferior navy could conduct minor counterattacks, or hit-and-run strikes, to try to take undefended ships out of action.

Corbett’s strategy of denial in the naval realm is pertinent to the air domain as well. Ukraine has used mobility and dispersion to maintain its air defenses as a “force in being.” Operating a mix of Cold-War era, Soviet-made mobile surface-to-air missile systems Ukrainian defenders on the ground have kept Russian aircraft at bay and under threat. To do so they have used the long range S-300 family, medium range SA-11s, and short range SA-8 Gecko systems. Exploiting dispersion and mobility, as Corbett advised, Ukrainian air defenders have used “shoot and scoot” tactics, firing their missiles and quickly moving away from the launch site. “The Ukrainians continue to be very nimble in how they use both short and long-range air defense,” a senior Pentagon official concluded. “And they have proven very effective at moving those assets around to help protect them.”

Mounted on tracked vehicles, Ukraine’s surface-to-air missile systems are fleeting targets. Given the danger of flying over Ukraine, Russia relies largely on standoff sensors to find radar targets, lengthening the time required to engage Ukraine’s mobile systems. After firing, the defender can turn off the radar, pack up and drive away to hide in the ground clutter — forests, buildings, etc. During the Gulf War in 1991, the U.S.-led coalition hunted Iraq’s truck-mounted Scud missiles, but even with the advantage of air superiority, it still failed to achieve a single confirmed kill. In the skies over Ukraine, Russian aircraft are not only the hunter but also the hunted, further complicating the task of finding and destroying them.

As a result, there is a deadly “cat-and-mouse” game between Russian aircraft and Ukrainian air defenses. The Oryx open-source intelligence site reports that, since the start of the war, 96 Russian aircraft have been destroyed, including at least nine Sukhoi Su-34 and one Su-35 — equivalents to the American F-15. Ukraine started the war with a total of 250 S-300 launchers, but 11 weeks later, the Russians have only managed to knock out 24 of them, at least so far as Oryx has confirmed with photos and videos. Given how Ukrainian officials carefully manage information about their losses, caution is needed in drawing conclusions from our limited information about them. Still these figures suggest that the Russians are only able to attrite a small portion of the threat, and, compared to radar and battery command vehicles, the less important part at that. The best evidence may be Russian behavior itself. As a senior Pentagon official argued, “And one of the reasons we know … [Ukraine’s air defenses are] working is because we continue to see the Russians wary of venturing into Ukrainian air space at all and if they do, they don’t stay long … And I think … that speaks volumes …”

The Disney version is devoid of any moral teaching whatsoever

Saturday, October 1st, 2022

The last four generations of Americans have been swimming in a sea of feminist propaganda our whole lives, Rachel Wilson argues:

We don’t even notice the feminist themes and messaging bombarding us daily. They feel like universal truths because that’s all we’ve ever known. A fish doesn’t know it has always lived in water until it somehow ends up on dry land. De-programming feminism works much the same way. This analogy is a brilliant segue for me to ruin one of people’s favorite childhood movies, Disney’s The Little Mermaid.


The Little Mermaid was originally a Danish folk tale which told of a young mermaid who lived under the sea with her widower grandmother and five sisters. She rescues a handsome prince from drowning and falls in love with him. She learns from her grandmother that humans have a much shorter lifespan than the mermaids’ 300 years, but that humans have eternal souls and can enter heaven, while mermaids become seafoam and cease to exist upon death. The longing for an eternal soul is just as much a part of the Little Mermaids’ longing to become human as is her infatuation with the prince in the original story. In the folk tale, The Little Mermaid does gain human legs in exchange for her beautiful voice, but she always feels as if she is walking on knives. She also is only able to gain a human soul through union in marriage to the prince. If not, she will die with a broken heart and turn to sea foam. In this version, the prince does not marry the Little Mermaid, but chooses to marry a princess from a neighboring kingdom. The Little Mermaid despairs, thinking of how much she sacrificed and her imminent demise. She is offered one final chance when her sisters bring her a dagger from the sea witch. If she kills the prince and lets his blood drop onto her feet, she can become a mermaid once more and return to her life in the sea. The Little Mermaid can’t bring herself to do this and instead throws herself and the dagger into the sea. Because of her selflessness, she is granted an afterlife as an earthbound ghost. She can earn an immortal soul by doing 300 years of good works for mankind and watches over the prince and his wife.


In the Disney version, Ariel is a little girl with big dreams. She has a stern patriarchal father who wants to keep her under lock and key for the sake of tradition, societal expectation, and safety. Yes, she falls in love with Prince Eric, but her main motivation for wanting to live on land are her dreams of independence and liberation from her father’s rules. She is a privileged princess who has everything, but only wants the one thing she can’t have- life on land as a human. When she expresses this to her father, he ruins her secret trove of human treasures and forbids her to return to the surface, knowing that it would likely spell her demise.


This song was an anthem for rebellion against the patriarchy. In fact, that is the central theme of the Disney version of the story. Ariel disobeys her father, uses witchcraft to do exactly what her father warned her not to, and ends up getting herself kidnapped by the sea witch. Her father, King Triton, then has to intervene and save her by allowing himself to be captured in her place. Because of this, the whole sea kingdom ends up under the dominion of the evil sea witch, spelling certain doom for the merfolk. Eric risks his own life to kill the sea witch and frees King Triton. The king then (absurdly) apologizes for trying to stand in the way of his sixteen-year-old daughter’s foolish dreams. He forgives her disobedience and recklessness which almost got the whole kingdom annihilated. Ariel gets everything she wants, and the message sent to young girls everywhere is that your dad is a big meanie head who just doesn’t want you to be independent and have fun. All the men in your life must sacrifice their very lives and even all of society if that’s what will make their little princess happy. Also, there is no negative consequence for being disobedient, lying, deceiving others, or practicing witchcraft as long as it makes you happy. The “happiness” of young beautiful women is all that really matters. The men will rescue you from all the trouble YOU are responsible for causing because that’s all they’re good for. The End.

In contrast to the original Danish folk story, we see that the Disney version is devoid of any moral teaching whatsoever. The original story teaches that the most moral path possible, the one that leads to eternal salvation, is self-sacrifice for the love of others. It teaches young women that a life of service to those they love and to humankind is what saves them. The original Little Mermaid was willing to sacrifice her own life and even her chance at a soul to prevent harm to the man she loved, even if he married someone else. There was nothing in it for her whatsoever. Her motivation couldn’t be purer, and this is what saved her in the end, even though she did not receive temporal reward in this life. This is in line with Christian morality, which is probably why Disney, run by Jeffrey Katzenberg at the time, completely inverted it. The meaning and moral of the story was turned into the polar opposite of the original.