Correlation, Causation, Coffee…

… and so much else besides!

Alexey Guzey’s newsletter is a treasure trove of interesting things he finds on Twitter, and in Guzey’s case, interesting is an understatement.

But even by his high standards, the article I am sharing with you today is something else altogether.

Said article begins the same way most articles I have shared here:

“The break point in America is exactly 1973,” says economist Tyler Cowen, “and we don’t know why this is the case.” One possible culprit is the 1973 oil embargo, because many of these trends have to do with energy. But Cowen doesn’t think this holds water. “Since that time, the price of oil in real terms has fallen a great deal,” he says, “and productivity has not bounded back.”
Another possible culprit is the US going off the gold standard in 1971, part of the set of measures known as the Nixon shock (also the name of our new Heavy Metal band). This makes some sense because many of these trends have to do with the economy. But it’s not clear if this is a good explanation either, as many of these trends seem to be global, and most of the world is not on the US dollar.

But it then takes on a life of its own. And if this excerpt doesn’t make you curious to read more, nothing ever will.

Bier of course was a surgeon, and so when it was his turn to give Hildebrandt the injection, he performed it flawlessly. Soon Hildebrandt was very anaesthetized. To test it, reports Regional Anaesthesia, “Bier pinched Hildebrandt with his fingernails, hit his legs with a hammer, stubbed out a burning cigar on him, pulled out his pubic hair, and then firmly squeezed his testicles,” all to no effect. In a different account, this last step was described as “strong pressure and traction to the testicles”. They also pushed a large needle “in down to the thighbone without causing the slightest pain”, and tried “strong pinching of the nipples”, which could hardly be felt. They were thrilled. With apparently no bad blood over this series of trials, the two gentlemen celebrated that evening with wine and cigars, and woke up the next morning with the world’s biggest pair of headaches, which confined them to bed for 4 and 9 days, respectively.

The whole article is impossibly fascinating, and is peppered with Today I Learnt moments. Along with the surgeon above, Tesla (as in the scientist, not the firm), Robert Louis Stevenson, Freud, and the Beatles also make guest appearances – as do two Popes.

Please, do read.