Ari Schulman Profile picture
Editor @tnajournal ~ The mundane, observed, became the romantic The trouble with science:
Chris Bugbee Profile picture rmack2x Profile picture A Strange loop Profile picture RightSideSocialWork Profile picture jayrupfl Profile picture 9 added to My Authors
Nov 8 10 tweets 3 min read
I remember hearing Nate Silver interviewed by a big-name reporter about the model showing Clinton with 65% odds. The reporter says "Okay, 65%, put that in context—how often does someone with that big a lead win?" There's an awkward pause. Silver says: "Well, 65% of the time." The reporter of course doesn't get the significance of the answer, just offers a sort of, huh, very informative, and moves on.
Nov 8 4 tweets 1 min read
Putting this handful of reply tweets into the timeline: Imperfect analogy, but this account of democracy feels like arguing that a marriage certificate not only constitutes a marriage, but is all that constitutes a marriage.
Nov 7 4 tweets 1 min read
In virtually every case where engineers view their life mission as "saving humanity," it's a huge win for society if they can be successfully diverted from it. The scientists/engineers who've done the most for the survival of the species were driven primarily by ordinary careerism and a tinkerer's obsessiveness. The ones who set out specifically to "save humanity" wind up either trying to destroy it or founding a rationalist subreddit.
Oct 19 4 tweets 2 min read
This article is based on a remarkable falsehood: "at nine weeks the nascent embryo is not discernible to the naked eye."

At 9 weeks of pregnancy, a human embryo is 3/4 to 1 inch long — med books compare it to a penny or a peanut. My naked eye can see that and yours can too. Suggesting what @suzania argues here. It's not a small detail but the entire sustained claim of the piece — everyone's been duped that you can see embryos at that stage. Whether the error was deliberate or not, the article should be retracted.
Aug 31 4 tweets 1 min read
Planting one quick flag, for the record: Not just with hindsight but knowably at the time, the masking flip-flop was an unforced error. Public health should have recommended it 4-6 weeks earlier, and before that there was no reason to belittle the public for considering the idea. That posture of condescension set the tone for much to follow, and it was throughline when, in March, public health otherwise did a 180, not just on masks but broadly, from downplaying the risk and worrying that precautions were irrational to pushing hard on restrictions.
Aug 31 5 tweets 2 min read
For those coming to my feed from my Times piece, I'm placing this here as a show that it's not an exercise in Monday-morning quarterbacking. I've been writing about public health's dysfunctional relationship to science, and to the public, since 2015:… That article has a lengthy investigation of the masking question in particular, in the context of Ebola and SARS.
Jul 19 5 tweets 2 min read
One young man acting entirely on his own, Elisjsha Dicken, did what 376 law enforcement officers assembled at Uvalde wouldn't: engage a mass shooter immediately, at extreme peril to his own life, without waiting for equipment and backup and excuses.… To explain Uvalde as "systemic failure" is to explain it away. Hundreds of officers of the law individually failed not only to have the will to act quickly, but instead spent that time enforcing the monopoly on violence they would not use by stopping others from going in.
May 27 10 tweets 3 min read
Lt. Chris Olivarez, spokesman for DPS, told CBS News a few days ago that the tactical team that breached the room were "placing their own lives between the shooter and those children to try to prevent any further loss of life."… Why did Lt. Olivarez earlier suggest that the police believed that there were still children alive in the room who needed to be saved? If he was mistaken then — as we're now told he must have been — who gave him that bad information?
May 27 4 tweets 1 min read
I see no way to consider this even a terrible misjudgment. If you’re in charge, you assume that there is a threat to life until there has been a top to bottom sweep of the school for victims and you’ve seen the perpetrator dead or captured with your own eyes. Haven’t heard that there are 911 calls still being made from inside the school? You should be asking constantly. Every person at every stage of the process should be damned for failing to make sure that the people at the top knew this — most especially the people at the top.
May 27 6 tweets 2 min read
1. "a commander on scene incorrectly thought no lives were at risk"

2. "19 officers in the hallway by 12:03 pm" did not breach until 12:50 "even as they continued to hear him firing."

3. "From 12:03 to 12:46, 911 dispatchers received numerous calls from within the classroom." What's the German word for an event that only fails to drive insane those who had already lost their minds?
May 24 4 tweets 1 min read
The perils of do-something-ism here are so obvious. But I also wonder what the one clear alternative on offer — nothing; the sense of total futility in realizing that this will keep happening over and over and we aren't doing much about it — does to us. Image The logic of anti-solutionism seems persuasive that federal policy can't flip a switch and end mass shootings, even with more will. But the spirit of anti-solutionism also runs counter to the moral reform it says is the real answer.
May 13 4 tweets 1 min read
Different scenario but same logic: "The question facing us in the embryo research debate is not whether to save children or save embryos in an emergency; it is whether we should *actively destroy* embryos for research purposes." "Choosing to save one’s friend rather than a stranger in a fire would not make it acceptable to kill strangers in order to save our friends."
May 6 5 tweets 1 min read
"The Goldfinch" in Austin:… A key piece of intel I have closely guarded for two decades is that you can find some fantastic overlooked gems in Goodwills west of Mopac. Guess the secret is out.
May 1 5 tweets 1 min read
Pitching a new season of the podcast Serial (ask your parents) where I crack the case of exactly what part of Texas Dillon is in It’s not in west Texas because, sorry, it’s obviously in Austin, except that Coach has to fly home (??) when he’s briefly living in Austin.
Apr 29 5 tweets 1 min read
Shouldn’t it be the Information Governance Board, not the Disinformation Governance Board? You gotta hand it to the name “Ministry of Truth,” it has a certain directness to it.
Apr 26 5 tweets 1 min read
Proceduralism as a basis for online speech moderation is a failed experiment. It will never find the legitimacy it needs for the obvious reason that, on a very large platform, it will be impossible to get most people to agree on what counts as "neutral," fair moderation rules. The first result is that many people will suspect that the moderation rules are just a pretext to exercise power over groups the platform owners disfavor.

The second result is that everyone will go to war to win that power.
Apr 23 4 tweets 2 min read
One problem with these "unsafe" warnings is that they mix in anodyne technical rationales (an algorithm decided the site has malware) with world-historical political ones (someone flagged it for wrongthink) and give you no indication of which one is the actual reason. I have to evaluate this all the time when someone posts a @tnajournal piece and the share card preview gets a "sensitive content" warning, which seems to have no rhyme or reason to it. The same piece will be flagged in one tweet and not in another, and there's no way to know.
Apr 19 4 tweets 2 min read
I’m pleased to share that I will be debating Francis Collins and others in a Braver Angels panel on Thursday.

The question: Should public health decisions be made by experts, not by ordinary citizens?

My answer will be no.… The event will be held virtually and is open to the public.
Apr 12 5 tweets 2 min read
The insult is the insult. The injury is that the people who talk about Texas this way have also spent the last 15 years flocking there in such bonkers numbers that they've priced out of the housing market a lot of the baffling exotic natives. Image Also, I say this with love, but a lot of homegrown Texas publications (I won't name names) have ample stocks of writers who already report on the state this way. We do just fine dumbfounding ourselves, thanks.
Apr 11 4 tweets 1 min read
Hot mask summer #3 just dropped.… Set aside for a moment whether you think reinstating mask mandates is justified, it would be just the slightest bit less despair-inducing if the people pushing for it could acknowledge it as despair-inducing. I know, I know.
Mar 18 6 tweets 1 min read
I often get the sense that the folks sneering at defenses of free speech have not had the experience of meaningfully changing their mind on an issue, coming to realize an idea they held sacred was wrong or one they held anathema was true. And I mean here beliefs first held and then changed as an adult, not the first inklings of rational examination of received childhood ideas.