Daniel Lemire's blog

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Science and Technology links (July 27th, 2018)

  1. It is frequently argued that intelligence requires great complexity. But complex compared to what? To put things in perspective, my friend Leonid points out that tiny worms have simple brains and yet they can compute the solution to several problems:

C elegans [a common worm] has less than 500 neural cells, but it has basic sensory system and muscle control! It can reproduce and mate.

  1. Almost everywhere in the world, people spend more time and money in schools. Sadly this does not obviously translate into smarter people.

(…) if we want to increase education, it’s not enough to send kids to school. It’s important that attending school also translates into acquiring specific skills.

  1. Stronger men might be less fertile.
  2. In 2016, the fertility rate in the United States was the lowest it has ever been. It was 1,765 births per 1,000 population, below the replacement rate of 2,100.
  3. Japanese smoke about 50% more cigarettes than Americans. Yet Americans have almost twice as many lung cancers. Approximately half of the supercentenarians (110 years+) in Okinawa have a history of smoking.
  4. The death rate from Alzheimer’s is more than 5x lower in Japan compared with the United States.
  5. Cannabis has no apparent carcinogenic effect. Yet a common joint has 4 times more cancer causing material than a single cigarette.
  6. A drug that enhances garbage disposal in the brain made old mice smarter.
  7. There is a large underground lake on Mars.
  8. Some worms can eat and digest plastic; presumably, this includes plastic straws.