Toban’s recent post on improving science from the bottom up reminded me of a recent article I read about a new website called Petridish. Essentially it’s like Kickstarter (crowdsourced fundraising) for scientific research: individual research projects compete with others for donors funds in small amounts. You can chip in any amount that seems reasonable to you (from $15 to $5,000) on projects ranging from tracking ancient dog populations in Africa to finding the first exomoon. Continue reading
Here’s an interesting video I stumbled across recently, about so-called “Ant Death Circles”:
Here is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about the evolutionary life cycle of words. It appears that a group of physicists, using data compiled by Google’s scans of books since 1800, have empirically measured how specific words emerge, persist, and fall out of use.
Language, of course, is a sporder like many others – where we can conceive of individual words as the “agents” that collectively cultivate a vocabulary that emerges among speakers. Roughly, individual words compete against other words for describing precise ideas, and certain words are collectively selected over time based on their characteristics (length, spelling, economy, phonetics, aesthetics, dialects, etc).
The authors classify their findings under the new empirical science of culture, or “culturomics” as they call it.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find the original journal article with the published findings in Science.
Over the summer, I wrote an essay on the spontaneous order of science (for the Carl Menger Essay Contest). I discussed the existence of systemic error in science and implications of sporder for improving science. My argument is basically that attempts at top down control or regulation of a sporder are doomed to fail, and we should be skeptical of government involvement in science. Instead, bottom up approaches that improve incentives should be emphasized.
Since then, I came across a mind-blowing paper by Robin Hanson that makes a powerful case for using prediction markets on scientific hypotheses to sharply reduce bias and systemic error from science: Could Gambling Save Science. I highly recommend looking at Hanson’s paper, it’s a very interesting and exciting idea. In light of this, I updated my paper with a section on prediction markets as the best solution we are likely to get.