i. Currently there’s a really high profile chess tournament being played in Norway – I guess most of the people who’d be interested in such matters already know, but just in case you didn’t here’s a link.

In marginally related matters, I recently managed to get into the top 100 list of players on the Playchess tactics trainer rating list. I’ve done a lot of tactis sessions over time, and it has paid off – I’ve become a pretty strong tactician, and even though I know it’s silly to do so I actually feel a bit proud about this. My level is comparable to 2100+ elo rated players like this, this and this, and literally only a handful of players on the list have higher average performances than my highest performance (for example my best performance, 2341, is much higher than the average performance – 2181 – of GM Evgeny Romanov, who has a 2640 elo rating – and with 56 tactics sessions on his part this is not due to small sample size).

ii. Some pictures of what bureaucracy looks like around the world (via MR).

iii. Do “Ultraconserved Words” Reveal Linguistic Macro-Families? I should point out that back when I was reading THP the linguistic evidence presented always seemed less convincing to me than did stuff like bones, old middens, and genes.

iv. A wikipedia list of unsual articles. I don’t want to pick out examples – this article is awesome, just go have fun! I’d read quite a few of the articles linked there, but it’s a very long list and there’ll be a lot of stuff in there you haven’t seen before even if you’ve spent a lot of time on wikipedia in the past.

v. A review of heavy metal contaminations in urban soils, urban road dusts and agricultural soils from China, by Wei & Yang.

“This paper reviews quite a few heavy metal contamination related studies in several cities from China over the past 10 years. The concentrations, sources, contamination levels, sample collection and analytical tools of heavy metals in urban soils, urban road dusts and agricultural soils were widely compared and discussed in this study. The results indicate that nearly all the concentrations of Cr, Ni, Cu, Pb, Zn, As, Hg and Cd are higher than their background values of soil in China. Among the cities, the contamination levels of the heavy metals vary in a large range. The geoaccumulation index shows that the contamination of Cr, Ni, Cu, Pb, Zn and Cd is widespread in urban soils and urban road dusts of the cities. Generally, the contamination levels of Cu, Pb, Zn and Cd are higher than that of Ni and Cr. Agricultural soils are also significantly influenced by Cd, Hg and Pb derived from anthropogenic activities. The integrated pollution index (IPI) indicates that the urban soils and urban road dusts of the developed cities and the industrial cities have higher contamination levels of the heavy metals. The comparison of the IPIs of heavy metals in urban soils and urban road dusts of Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Hongkong reveals that the contamination levels of the metals in urban road dusts are higher than that in urban soils in the cities. Moreover, the main sources of the metals in urban soils, urban road dusts and agricultural soils are also different.”

The English in this article is occasionally, well, horrible. But the findings are interesting:

“According to the IPI [integrated pollution index], approximately 65% of all the cities have high or extremely high contamination levels of heavy metals in urban soils and urban road dusts. This indicates that the urban soils and urban road dusts in the cities have been significantly impacted by heavy metals derived from anthropogenic activities. […] the concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in the urban soils in all the cities exceed their background values. […] The concentrations of Cr, Cu, Pb, Zn and Ni in urban soils in Shenyang, Baoji and Jinchang are much higher than their PTE-MPC [““maximum permissible concentrations of potential toxic elements (PTE-MPC)” for agricultural soils according to soil quality standards of China (CEPA, 1995)”]. The highest concentrations of the metals are also found in the three cities. This may be attributed to the urban soil samples which were mainly collected from industrial areas in Shenyang, Baoji and Jinchang. The concentrations of Cd in the cities are all higher than their PTE-MPC with an exception of Taicang and Beijing.”

vi. Colour Constancy Across the Life Span: Evidence for Compensatory Mechanisms.

“We find that, to a large extent, hue perception is invariant with age; the direction but not the magnitude of the small observed age-related hue changes are predicted by the yellowing of the lens. […] Our main finding is that colour appearance mechanisms are to large extent unaffected by the known age-related changes in the optical media (yellowing of the lens) whereas the ability to discriminate between small colour differences is compromised with an increase in age.”

vii. A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety, by Moffitt et al.

“The need to delay gratification, control impulses, and modulate emotional expression is the earliest and most ubiquitous demand that societies place on their children, and success at many life tasks depends critically on children’s mastery of such self-control. We looked at the lives of 1,000 children. By the age of 10 y, many had mastered self-control but others were failing to achieve this skill. We followed them over 30 y and traced the consequences of their childhood self-control for their health, wealth, and criminal offending.”

The findings are what you’d expect – people with poor impulse control as children did worse on a lot of metrics (health, substance abuse, SES, crime, …) as adults. As it’s an observational study (though an impressive one; “we report findings from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a longitudinal study of a complete birth cohort of 1,037 children born in one city in a single year, whom we have followed from birth to the age of 32 y with 96% retention”), I’d say the policy implications of the findings are not clear.

May 12, 2013 - Posted by | anthropology, Chess, personal

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