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Musings + Links (IX)

Misuse of Endnotes

I hate when authors uses endnotes for citations and for commentary. Footnotes should be for commentary, endnotes for citations. The problem with mixing the two is then I don't know whether it is worth flipping to the endnotes to see if this footnote says something interesting or if it's just "ibid, p. 64". I'm also in favor of the [Name, Date] inline citation format because if you see the same name come up multiple times you're more likely to go hunt down that reference, but I realize this format can be unwieldy in writing that cites a lot of sources.

Some Cold Water on AI Progress

From Dominic Cumming's substack

I did a podcast that just went live, do not read the transcript as I think the AI struggled with my accent.

MBS's Fascination with Alexander the Great

From, Blood and Oil

Mohammed also had an early fascination with Alexander the Great, consuming history books about him and relishing his bold empire building. Some of his closest friends from that time would later refer to Mohammed as their “Iskander,” Arabic for Alexander.

Gustav le Bon on Genius

At the bidding of a Peter the hermit millions of men hurled themselves against the East: the words of an hallucinated enthusiast such as Mahomet created a force capable of triumphing over the Graeco-Roman world; an obscure monk like Luther bathed Europe in blood. The voice of Galileo or a Newton will never have the least echo among the masses. The inventions of genius hasten the march of civilization. The fanatics and the hallucinated create history.

Learning From When Prophecy Fails

When Prophecy Fails is a short book describing a phenomenon that sometimes happens when millenarian predictions fail to take place: believers double down on their beliefs. The book claims there are five conditions that must be present for such increased fervor to occur.

  1. A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.
  2. The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
  3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
  4. Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief. [...]
  5. The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

I'm sure most readers can find multiple contemporary examples fitting this pattern.

cross-section of axial inductor