Reefer madness

It was has to be about the dumbest NCAA rule (okay, probably not, there are few organizations with more dumb rules than the NCAA), Michigan basketball player has been suspended from his team for a year for testing positive for marijuana use.  Please!!  It’s not like it’s even close to being a performance-enhancing substance.  So, now McGarry is just going to leave college and head for professional basketball.  And who could blame him.  Well, that rule worked so well for student athletes.  Just so stupid.  More here.

Meanwhile, I listened to a Freakonomics podcast last week that looked at the relative harm of alcohol vs marijuana.  In no surprise at all to anybody who is paying attention, a comprehensive UK study found that alcohol causes way more harm than marijuana.  Politics being what it is, sadly, the British “drug czar” was fired for suggesting the government needs to ease up on marijuana.  Here’s the drug and harm chart:


In the end, you know what’s more harmful than illegal drugs?  People (politicians, police, the NCAA, schools, etc.,) being really stupid about illegal drugs.


Photo of the day

I love historic photos and I’m fascinated by WWI, so this In Focus gallery of WWI photos is right in my sweet spot.  So many amazing shots.  Here’s two of my favorites:

A German ammunition column, men and horses equipped with gas masks, pass through woods contaminated by gas in June of 1918.(National Archives/Official German Photograph) 


And this.  Mostly, because of all I’ve read and seen, somehow I’ve never come across “dazzle” camouflage before:

The USS Nebraska, a United States Navy battleship, with dazzle camouflage painted on the hull, in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 20, 1918. Dazzle camouflage, widely used during the war years, was designed to make it difficult for an enemy to estimate the range, heading, or speed of a ship, and make it a harder target. (NARA)

Photo of the day

Well, here’s an interesting project– photos of children with their first (real) gun.  Learn more about it here.


Quick hits

1) How big is the universe?  Very big.

2) I love birds.  I love wind power.  Turns out these two things are not in nearly as much conflict as some have led us to believe.

3) As much as the NC legislature frustrates me, it could be worse.   I could be a professor in South Carolina.

4) Not surprising that athletes need optimum sleep for optimum performance.  Surprising that professional sports organizations with millions of dollars at stake have just figured this out.

5) The science behind various foods preventing cancer is really not so great.

6) Love this George Saunders graduation speech.

7) This is from a while back, but I just came across it.  The problem with much political journalism is “the view from nowhere.”

8) OMG sea otters are truly awful!

9) Ignorance of the law is an excuse if you are an NC Police officer.  Awful.

10) They physics of shooting a basketball.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on this week’s Supreme Court affirmative action decision.

12) Krugman on the anemic conservative response to Piketty.

13) Do the best professors get the worst evaluations?  Maybe.

14) The FCC ruling on net neutrality is awful.  The idea that we can count on the FCC to credibly regulate “commercially reasonable” is absurd on it’s face.  Vox on how this is a symptom of our broken politics (once again, the big powerful moneyed interests get their way and the needs of ordinary Americans are ignored).

Old sperm

Regular readers know how much I love being a parent.  Sometimes so much that the idea of having five kids seriously crosses my mind.  One thing that always pulls me back is the knowledge of the significantly higher risk of genetic abnormalities, etc., for the children of older parents.  One special needs child is enough.   Anyway, we know plenty about the problems that come from older eggs, but recent research suggested that there’s real risks that come with being an older father.  538‘s Emily Oster really digs into the research and finds that it is a lot more complicated/uncertain than upon first appearance:

The evidence on autism and other behavioral disorders appears less reassuring. The authors of a 2011 review article in Molecular Psychiatry combined a number of studies comparing children of older and younger fathers (this is called a “meta-analysis”). They concluded that relative to children born to 20- to 29-years-old fathers, those with fathers aged 30 to 39 were 1.2 times more likely to have autism; those with fathers aged 40 to 49 were 1.8 times more likely; and those with fathers over 50 were 2.5 times more likely. The studies used in the meta-analysis were all pretty consistent. They did not all find the same size effect, but virtually all pointed to increased risk of autism with increased paternal age.

To properly statistically control for possible confounds leads to an interesting design:

We would clearly prefer to have a study that compared children born to the same man at different times in his life. This fixes a few problems. First, since the father’s genetics stay the same among children, there is no longer a concern that, say, men who are autistic themselves have children later. Second, we avoid any concern that some kinds of dads are more likely to have their kids evaluated for autism or other disorders.

An analysis like this is referred to as a “sibling fixed effects” regression, a comparison between or among siblings. It’s been used to good effect in ananalysis of breastfeeding, for example…

Because mothers often age along with fathers within a family, if we analyzed sibling pairs with the same mother and the same father, it would be impossible to separate the effects of maternal and paternal age.

This paper does claim to separate these effects. How? The data includes half-siblings — children who share a father but not a mother.1 The authors can infer the effects of the father’s age separately from the mother’s age by looking within groups of siblings who share a father but not a mother.

That means the huge positive effect seen in the chart above essentially tells us that a later-born child of a father who has multiple kids with multiple partners is more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.[emphasis mine] In the paper, this difference is attributed to paternal age.

Why push so deeply into the statistics here? Seeing what the data is really saying lets us think a little more about what else might be happening. Now that we know the effects are driven by differences across half-siblings, we can start asking what else — beyond paternal age — might be driving the difference. Most obviously, we may wonder whether being a child in a fluid family situation could itself have an impact on ADHD risk (as other studies have found).

Interesting!  I hope I excerpted in a way that made this reasonably clear, but you should probably read the whole post if you are interested.  Anyway, stable family situation or not, I’m still stopping at four.

Colbert on Cliven Bundy

Great stuff.

Though I’m not a regular viewer, I’m really going to miss the Colbert Report.  Jon Stewart does good work, but I think Colbert’s satire is generally sharper and smarter.  I suspect he’ll do great replacing Letterman, but I still think it’s a shame and a loss.  There’s probably a few dozen people out there who could do a good job replacing Letterman, but the Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report is truly irreplaceable.

On a related note, here’s a great analysis of the politics of Colbert vs. Stewart via Mischiefs of Faction.


Photo of the day

Oh how I loved this gallery of daily lives of Storm Troopers:

Waiting at the AT-AT stop. (Those things are always late.) COURTESY ZAHIR BATIN

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