Tuesday, March 31, 2009
However, there is a small chance, some scientists argued, that the LHC will produce a black hole. There is also a small chance, some of those scientists argued, that the black hole will then consume the Earth.
I joked that fortunately the LHC broke before it could smash any particles, and our Singularity-imposed doom was delayed.
Many people wondered if the United States had fallen behind in the international technological prowess race, as we did not have anything that was nearly as powerful as the LHC.
Well, fear no more! Today the DOE is expected to certify Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's new "Super Laser", a $3.5 billion device that will concentrate 192 not-quite-super lasers into a single point the size of a pencil eraser. At that point, scientists expect to see energy levels on the same order of magnitude as the sun, giving them insight into fusion. Some scientists, however, are skeptical, claiming that a sustained fusion reaction would be uncontrollable, and would consume everything around it.
Super-expensive, possibly-apocalyptic devices are going from oddity to trend very fast, and eventually someone will build one that actually can destroy the Earth.
It also serves as an example that you don't need $75 million in DARPA research funds to produce something that helps people.
He got caught, and was subsequently charged with felony stalking and two counts of carrying a loaded weapon in a car.
Which made me ask: if he had one loaded gun in one car...how is he charged with two counts of carrying a loaded gun in a car? This is a common problem for me, when people get charged with tons of repeat counts of an offense when they only appear to have committed the offense once.
Like I read some guy was charged with 46 counts of sexually-oriented charges. Can't you just charge him once with "being a disgusting, rotten scumbag"?
I have to wonder if the D.A. throws as many charges as possible at offenders, in hopes that the offenders' greasy lawyer won't be able to get all of them dropped. Sort of like slinging mud at a wall.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Well, it's impressive right up until you realize that the suit has rudimentary hook hands and you really can't "grab" anything.
As an exercise, make your index and middle finger into a "hook" and curl up your other fingers, including your thumb. Now go to the fridge and try to make yourself a sandwich or open a bottle of wine. Pretty tough with hooks, isn't it? Powered suits really aren't any good if you can't use them!
I won't deny the controls integration of the SARCOS suit is leaps and bounds ahead of the one I have sketched out. But am I honestly the only person who has thought a power-augmented hand should be the first order of business, and then you should build from there? Humans really have two things that separate them from all other animal species: upright, running stature and a keen intellect coupled to the power to devise and use tools.
The argument is long to make, and I don't really want to do it here. The point at which I would eventually arrive is that there is a separation between the military complex and the civilian need and the division is that the military complex doesn't require hands, just hooks. A soldier can easily lift a 400 lb bomb up under a plane wing with hooks, then an assisting soldier clamps it in place. A soldier can have several hundred pounds of ammo and equipment stacked on his power assisted suit, then hike it for miles, never once needing his hands.
But in the civilian world, the applications for powered suits almost always requires hands. Perhaps assembly line workers could assemble larger pieces of machinery, or carry more product, if they had a powered suit. This would be difficult with hooks but simple with power-assisted hands. Think of something you've tried to do that required you to strain yourself. Chances are, it would be a lot easier if you had a powered suit, but would require hands to do it.
My personal favorite example is the idea of moving into a new home. Wouldn't it be easier (faster and more efficient too) to unload all that heavy furniture if you had a powered suit? But would your wife be okay with you putting hook-holds in the sides of the leather couch? Better buy the suit with hands.
But the research funding is all military. Seems like any time you mention "super-soldier" you get instant Army dollars, and a guaranteed article in Popular Science.
I guess maybe I'm just a whiny pacifist on this one, but I just don't think it's a good investment of a human mind to devise better ways of killing one another. Seems like the civilian sector is where this research should be conducted. The problem is that the DOD has a $530 billion budget, and the NIH (which funds private research) has a budget roughly 1/20th of that.
The argument could be (and usually is) that government research eventually trickles down to civilians, like Velcro and Tang, but I guess my problem is that I don't want powered suits to trickle down from soldiers to civilians. I don't even want there to be soldiers. I dream of a peaceful (though far-fetched world) where no one fights with anyone else, and making deadlier soldiers seems (though in the best interest of good defense) converse to the idea of preserving and raising the quality of life. I'd much rather see a powered suit in the hands of Tony Stark than in the hands of Obadiah Stane, to rip right from the movies.
What's really great about that post is that most of the commenters think "government" prints money, not the Federal Reserve, a private bank who is beholden to no one.
Maybe instead of "Change you can believe in" Obama's campaign slogan should have been "Change in which you can believe" showing Obama's commitment to education by using correct grammar! Come on, Obama, you went to Columbia and Harvard, the two greatest English language universities in the world outside of England...
Which strikes me as a funny thing to say if today he announced that there probably won't be any more bailout dollars for GM or Chrysler.
Now, despite my first instinct to do so, I really don't want to call The President of the United States a liar who would sell his own mother's soul to get elected, because insults like that should be made to someone's face.
Back in September, when I railed on lawmakers for sneaking the first $25 billion into their tax break package, I mentioned that back then, GM was still pretending the money had a purpose: to retool their factories to build hybrid cars. Of course, that all turned out to be a farce, as GM and Chrysler really just needed the money to linger like a rejected ex-boyfriend. Who then comes back and asks for "just one more goodbye kiss, baby. Then I'll go."
Yet the lawmakers, including then-Senator Obama, voted for the "Detroit Bailout" (that still didn't include Ford) without much ado, based on a promise that 30 dyas later the management at GM and Chrysler would unveil their brilliant schemes to do what they haven't been doing for 25 years: make an efficient vehicle for profit.
Of course that turned out to be a lie too, as GM and Chrysler both asked for "more time."
Now apparently theyve unveiled their plans, and both of their plans are inept; Chrysler's getting rejected (merge with Fiat within a month or face our wrath) and GM's getting so rejected that their CEO jumped ship.
And surprise of the century, Obama has changed his tune on bailouts, claiming that pretty much the entire industry must reorganize before it'll get any more Federal money.
Is there anyone in the world that isn't a damnable liar?! There are people who say anything, and I mean anything at all, all to obtain more power. Then there are the people who will lie right to your face for the sake of perserving the status quo. Then there are the people who are so greedy they'll lie about anything as long as it makes them money. There are the people who will lie to their constituents saying "this is the best for the country, even if you people that elected me hate the decision" and it turns out to be an awful idea for both the country and for the constituents.
Now, before an Obama supporter hits me in the face with a bat, remember this: I voted for him. I believed him. I thought he was a smarter man, and a more socially responsible person than Senator McCain.
And before Obama supporters say to me "well the situation has changed," or "he didn't know everything he knew now," or "the conditions of the first bailout weren't met," KNOW THIS: I WAS AGAINST THE FIRST BAILOUT TOO!
But if you are going to shove cotton into a gaping wound, shove a lot of cotton! Not just some, then say "this wound won't stop bleeding. We demand that the cardiovascular system reorganize faster, and show some localized clotting before we add more cotton!" As soon as we passed the first bailout for GM and Chrysler, we were committed to taking whatever steps necessary to keeping those companies afloat. Stopping the bailouts now isn't just bad policy once, its bad policy twice.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Then you spend the next three weeks talking about yourself. I was at work Thursday and heard the following in a span of about three minutes:
"If UConn loses my bracket is finished."
"I can't believe I picked Purdue, that was a good call."
"There's probably no way I can finish in the top three, now that Xavier is out."
"I went straight chalk this year and I'm doing pretty well."
"I always pick all four 5-12 match ups for upsets and that was a good call this year."
"I have Kansas, Mizzou and Oklahoma in the Final Four, because of my Big 12 loyalty."
"I didn't pick Kansas to even go to the Elite 8 this year, because they're a young team."
"Oh I did, Cole Aldrich is my guy!"
Etc. etc. etc. until they all ran out of things about themselves to say.
It was really amusing, actually, as they all simply waited for a tiny bit of dead air so they could jump in and see how many "I's" they could say before they too were interrupted.
Which reminds me of something Benjamin Franklin once said. He said it had dawned on him that people considered him an arrogant jerk, and the reason, he surmised, for their hostility was because he spent far too much time talking and far too little time listening. He resolved to ask each person two questions for each question they asked him.
Three years later he was the elected the first president of the University of Pennsylvania. He said he found that when he turned the questions back on others, they subconsciously felt pleased, and deferred to him from that point on as the leader in conversations. It served him well, as he went on to a respectable career in science, literature, politics, and business.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
This question came up to me today when I saw the Republicans have released their budget proposal to counter the Dems massive $3+ trillion version. The Republican budget appears similar in size, but includes tax cuts...which ( agree with Yglesias here, amazingly) means it would actually decrease government revenue without shrinking government spending.
But as far as stimulus goes, over the last 120 days, the language from the White House has mostly been that the previous stimulus almost worked and that the fundamentals are sound. "We checked our numbers! Peter Parker is wrong!"
And so they propose a larger stimulus that does effectively the same thing, increases government spending in a bold, new way.
But my fear is that the stimulus won't work, no matter how big. The fusion reaction just won't stabilize. A larger stimulus just increases the amount of damage the fusion reactor can do. Did a larger piece of tritium and a bigger reactor solve Doc Ock's fusion issues? No. Instead it threatened to destroy the city (and by fundamental laws of nature, the universe).
In the movie, we're all saved by Spiderman, who convinces Octavius to sabotage his own creation. Where is the fiscal conservative that can pummel some sense into both the Republican and Democratic parties? Right now they're in a battle for who can have the neatest, yet largest, spending package ever ever ever! Who will convince the Republicans and Democrats that with great power comes great responsibility, and they will throw themselves on their swords, stopping the deficit juggernaut before it destroys this country?
Will the next stimulus not quite work...but almost...pushing us towards an even bigger stimulus?
Gotta love an extended metaphor.
Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table
At which he's fed.
Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.
Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for peanuts
Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.
Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.
Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.
Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.
Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.
Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.
When he screams and hollers,
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.
Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid.
Put these words
Upon his tomb,
'Taxes drove me to my doom...'
When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax..
All the following were referenced in the poem.
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Ta x (44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Marriage License Tax
Personal Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Sales T ax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone Stateand Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
I was cutting slices of banana for her and she was happily eating them. I got distracted by the television for a second and her eating outpaced my slicing.
I turned, half shocked, half amused. My daughter was looking up at me, waiting for another slice of banana.
"Nana, pease," she repeated.
"Why, yes you may," was all I could stammer, before cutting another few pieces of banana for her and trying not to burst into proud tears.
It doesn't seem all that long ago that she was inside her mom's tummy and I could watch her tiny hands push outward, as though she were exploring the boundaries of her fetal home. I'd see where her hand was and I'd gently push back. The protrusion on my wife's stomach where the little hand was would disappear, then seconds later reappear, testing to see if I'd poke at it again. It was bizarre, I admit, to play little games with my baby when she was still in the womb, but at the same time, I was as curious about her as she was about the outside world.
What will this little child be like when she's born? I remember wondering. What will she be like when she's 17 months old?
Never in my wildest imagination did I foresee that by the time she was 17 months old my daughter would be politely asking me for another slice of banana. They grow up so fast.
Here's a trailer for the full-length, feature film based on the book. The trailer gives me goosebumps, and makes me incredibly nostalgic for the days when my imagination was all I needed to keep me busy for hours. Eventually I had to grow up and devote my mind to reality.
You just don't see people my age walking around in costumes pretending to be medieval warriors.
Unless you go to the Renaissance Festival.
Update: The movie is directed by Spike Jonze, who got his start in film doing music videos. My favorite of his is this Fatboy Slim song, "Weapon of Choice," starring Christopher Walken. Also good, and more recently released, Weezer's "Greatest Man That Ever Lived".
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Back when (one of the many) stimulus package was being considered by Congress, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) published a state of the country report listing $2.2 trillion dollars in needed repairs to the nation's infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams, powerlines, and many other projects that would have kept civil engineers busy and well-payed for the foreseeable future. I found this unethical, and wrote a 4 part evisceration (1, 2, 3, 4)which elucidated my belief that this report was dubious in its publish date being during the time Congress was debating the amount of infrastructure spending to be in the stimulus package.
However, I want to revisit what I said about dam removal as an environmental boon, in light of a current event. Here, the National Weather Service site shows a bright green blob over most of North Dakota and parts of South Dakota and Minnesota. Up there, they've had up to a foot of rain, and in some parts had nearly three feet of snow, which is now melting. Flood waters are up all along major rivers like the Red River, and most of those rivers drain into the Missouri river, which heads down through South Dakota, along the border between Iowa and Nebraska, then across the state of Missouri to St. Louis where it joins the mighty Mississippi river and heads to Louisiana.
The Army Corps of Engineers has come up with a brilliant tactic to keep the Missouri river from overflowing its banks as this surge of water heads downstream. In anticipation of the increased water flow, the ACE will open the outlets on all their reservoirs downstream of the flooded area. This will increase the flow in the Missouri river, while decreasing the pool (level) in the ACE managed reservoirs. As the flood water moves downstream, the reservoir outlets are then closed, and they fill back up, while not contributing to the flow in the Missouri river. This minimizes the amount of non-flood water in the river and helps reduce flood potential. As the flood waters recede, the outlets on the rivers are opened back up, and water is released until the normal pool is achieved, at which the outlets are reduced to normal flow. In this way, they pre-pad themselves against the coming flood and reduce flood potential nationwide.
This would not be possible without dams. All of the ACE reservoirs have artificial dams and use them effectively for this purpose. Many human lives and much property is saved through the use of ACE reservoir management to prevent flooding. We all owe a debt of gratitude to these reservoirs for helping us maintain our way of life even in turbid Spring weather.
That said, I want everyone to remember that migratory fish populations is natural. Occasional flooding of rivers and streams is natural. Humans living more than 5 feet above the FEMA 100 year flood plain is natural. Artificial dams and large cities below the 5 foot FEMA level are not natural, and are just a couple bolded items in a laundry list of things that America needs to fix if we truly are committed to environmental longevity.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Imagine you had a sudden influx of $12,000 and simultaneously your existing commuter car had a massive failure in the engine that was unrepairable. In essence, you must buy a replacement vehicle.
Now, at 33 mpg city and 41 highway, you could own a brand new SMART car, a two-passenger car pictured on the left.
Conversely, you could also purchase this 2007 Honda Civic LX that holds 5 passengers (fairly) comfortably and gets 30 mpg city and 38 highway. You'd save $100 dollars.
So which is a better deal? The SMART car gets bettere mileage, but enough better to justify the extra $100? A little math, and assuming the current national average price of gas, $1.96, will remain constant, then you'd spend $107.95 powering the Civic the same distance you would powering the SMART car with $100. In essence, you'd have to travel 24,390 miles before you'd have offset the extra $100 you spent on the SMART car.
Further, car insurance on a new vehicle is invariably higher than it is on a used model. Property tax is higher for a new car as well. So you lose your offset in increased peripheral expenses. So you might be driving a more fuel efficient car, but you are actually paying more per mile for it.
And my God, but this car is ridiculous looking. It looks like some sort of ejection pod for two from a larger vehicle, like if the A-Team van had an ejection capsule in it, this is what it would be. Right now the wait list is 27 months long for this wind-up toy, but I have seen a few around here. When I do, I have to laugh. They are all being driven by retired Boomers. Another chink in the Toyota Prius' armor, perhaps. Needless to say I'm not on that wait list. I want a car that actually has room for my wife and my daughter at the same time. And 1-3 mpg improvement doesn't really help me.
And since this car isn't a hybrid, it's really not an environmental boon, because the gas engine runs the whole time.
But deep down, my real problem with it is that it offends my manly American machismo, which lusts for this:
Monday, March 23, 2009
Every few months I am reminded that we need to automate cars and teach them to drive themselves. We'd save literally thousands upon thousands of American lives every year.
Here, Yglesias argues that cars are weapons, when used irresponsibly, and our language when describing vehicular fatalities should reflect this.
And people who aren’t careful—especially those people whose carelessness [sic] leads to deaths and serious injuries—deserve to be subjected to strong implicit and explicit moral criticism. The common rhetoric of “accidents” the use of the passive voice serve to obscure what’s happening and where the responsibility lies.
However, I strongly want to remind everyone that despite the rare ugly ducklings that don't know how to drive, millions upon millions of people drive vehicles every day without incident. We should not up the ante legislatively just because a stressed person, distracted on their phone, or whatever, drove dangerously and caused a collision.
Instead, I advocate that cars should be automated, and humans should no longer be allowed to drive them (except on private tracks or places like that). I have shown before that all the technologies required to automate cars are essentially in place, we only need a guiding hand to unify them into a working model. This system could be grandfathered into place fairly easily, with a ten year hybridized highway system where some cars were automated while gradually less and less cars were manually driven.
Simply put, if you car is driving itself, it would never go the wrong way.
Bruce Willis weds Emma Heming, who is the younger (29) than Ashton Kutcher (30), the husband of Bruce's ex, Demi Moore.
Of course, Bruce is 54 and Demi is 46, so the age difference between Ashton and Demi (16 years) is a little less poignant than that of Bruce and Emma (24 years).
I'm just throwing this out there to be the first to do so, but I don't think they were even engaged 6 months ago, so I bet that Emma is pregnant.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
On the way in to work this morning I heard a paid advertisement for a vitamin supplement. I won't name the brand, but the host explained that the three key ingredients were:
1. Omega-3 Fish Oil
2. Plant Sterols
Unfortunately for the host, I have a two degrees in bioengineering, so I knew what a farce this was. But nevertheless, the host made the case that you should be taking huge amounts of all three, and their supplement was the only one that contained all three...and in high quantities. For those of you who don't have my educational background, please read on.
CoQ10, or Coenzyme Q(10), as biochemists know it, is a coenzyme that aids in the process of metabolization of sugar into ATP. 95% of the energy in the body is produced via ATP in the mitochondria, and CoQ10 plays a role in this. The host eagerly announced that every person had CoQ10 in their body, and as time went by the amount slowly decreased. He then claimed that by taken supplements containing CoQ10, you could boost your level of it, and thereby implied that you'd be filled with youthful energy, despite your age.
This is true...and incredibly misleading. The half-life of CoQ10 (that is, the time it takes for half of the molecules in a sample to degrade into a non-effective molecule) is 33 hours. If you take a large dose of CoQ10, you'll have a 1.5 day surge in CoQ10 (mostly in your liver, where it produces untappable energy used in parasympathetic body processes), after which time you'll have to take CoQ10 again...and again...
Basically, you can't permanently boost your CoQ10 levels unless you use the age old method of boosting your body's levels of mitochondrion: exercise.
Further, CoQ10 is neither water soluble nor lipid soluble, and like Vitamin E is difficult to digest. Basically, the way it works is the less you take, the more you absorb. So taking a massive dose of CoQ10 actually works against you, and you just pass most of it out with your fecal matter.
Plant sterols, on the other hand, have been shown to decrease cholesterol, just like the host claimed. But the host didn't mention that numerous studies have found the sterols will accumulate in your heart, damaging your aortic valve.
And the real catch with plant sterols is that they work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol...and are therefore most effective when taken with food, not as a supplement. Many butter makers enrich their products with sterols and tout them as low-cholesterol products. This is the effective use of plant sterol. Taking a vitamin of it with a high-fiber, zero-cholesterol breakfast like cereal or oatmeal does you zero good in fighting cholesterol.
Finally, though I won't discard the positive effects of fish oil (I take a fish oil supplement myself), I will point out that oil-based substances are difficult for the human digestive system to absorb, they must be bundled up into little packages called micelles and transported actively into the blood stream. This is not quickly done, and there are a limited number of transport cells in the human digestive tract. A massive dose of fish oil usually just means that you are going to waste a lot of fish oil. Even normal fish oil supplements, that have 30% O3 fatty acids tend to supersaturate your gut, and you don't absorb a lot of the fatty acid. The product being touted this morning was 90% O3 fatty acid. That just means you are paying more...to waste more.
Anyway, it pays to know what your supplements are doing to you, and whether your money is being spent well, or if it is a total, fraudulent waste of money based purely on the amazing power of the human body to falsely empower placebos.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I, of course, do not condone murder, or promote targeted violence, but faced with these snobbish jerks who feel entitled to vast sums of money they didn't earn (and you better give it to them or they'll sue for more), I have to think that maybe this is exactly what Dostoevsky was getting at in Crime and Punishment when Raskalnikov knocks off Alena, the unpleasant, wealthy, despised money-lender.
Friday, March 20, 2009
The difference, however, is that people went to Silicon Valley to develop products and then sell them to get rich. People went to Wall Street expecting to get rich without that pesky "developing a product" part.
Well, and part of what happened over the last 15, 20 years is that so much money was made in finance that about 40 percent, I think, of our overall growth, our overall economic growth was in the financial sector. Well, now what we’re finding out is a lot of that growth wasn’t real. It was paper money, paper profits on the books, but it could be easily wiped out.
And what we need is steady growth; we need young people, instead of — a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher. And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing. We won’t have this kind of bubble-and-bust economy that we’ve gotten so caught up in for the last several years.
What Obama is getting at is that if you are going to spend 4-5 years in college to obtain a degree, you should use some common sense and not spend that time preparing for a high-risk job that may blow up in your face. Too many of my friends in college who were very bright were interested in jobs that equated to high paychecks, not high-emotional-satisfaction.
I will probably not ever be an especially wealthy individual because I chose engineering as my field of interest, but I am enjoying relatively high job security compared to many of my old college buds. My long-term employment outlook is good. Engineering jobs, even in the current economy, are in massive demand (see here, here, here, and especially here). And with a huge exodus of foreign engineering graduates, the domestic openings for engineers continue to be numerous.
Don't get me wrong, swimming in a giant vault of coins like Uncle Scrooge is very appealing to me, but I definitely prefer where I am to the unemployment line. Even if I left this company unwillingly through firing or lay-off, my rehiring prospects elsewhere are high.
But as was accurately noted in the comments of this post, Gen Y has a real internal separation going on: on the one hand you have a lot of cultural pressure and economic incentive to go into get-rich-quick careers and much of Gen Y is headed that way, having lived the majority of their lives in the economic boom of the 95-05, and then another large group of Gen Y has gone into secure, honest work...at which they toil 50-60 hours a week.
I've always like the phrase "he wants a paycheck...just not the job that goes with it" to describe lazy people. It seems to me that the 40% of the economy that was financial vapor-money Obama describes was created by people who wanted the paycheck...just not the job that was required to earn it.
Listen to me, high school seniors that are pondering an undergraduate major: in American history, time and time again, the service sector turns out to be the tortoise, and the financial sector was the hare...
Or if you wanted (because you enjoy subtle references) to try to equate the modern American financial crisis to a Bette Midler song, then the financial sector is Bette Midler and the service sector is The Wind Beneath My Wings.
Given the depths to which the auto industry has sunk, even that sliver of confidence bodes well for the humble wagon.
When a modern writer correctly places their participle and doesn't leave it dangling at the comma, it's like a breath of fresh air.
Robert Gross, managing director of a financial advisory firm in Burlingame, Calif., hopes to refinance and lock in a rate as low as 4.5 percent within the next two weeks. To get ready, he provided his mortgage broker with two years of tax returns, plus copies of bank accounts, brokerage accounts and pay stubs.
"They're not taking your word for anything nowadays," he said.
You mean, they're not just giving away the money with a smile and a nod anymore? How awful! We should force them to give risky loans to dubious, underqualified people! They should make the loan application process so easy that even a convicted felon with no credit history can easily apply and get approved for at least $200,000!
The problem, as I see it, is that the Fed printing money doesn't seem like a good way to thaw the banks. Their plan in printing money (over 1 trillion dollars in new cash), rather than to thaw up lenders, is instead to drive the interest rate down even further, encouraging more people to apply for mortgages. While this would, in effect, stimulate the economy, it can only do so if the banks were to return to their 2000-2005 era policy of giving anyone who wanted it a carload of cash. Hopefully, the banks have learned their lesson.
The Fed apparently hasn't.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
While I was at it, I also dropped Clicked. Will Femia used to put daily (or twice daily) lists of massive links to everything interesting and non-political, but he's been promoted into other things, and a blog that is five youtube links twice a week is not really worth having on my blogroll.
I'm always open for suggestions as to replacements.
Read this article that goes way over my head but seems relatively well-written. The idea that interstellar travel could be achieved by folding space has long been predicted and researched. My favorite use of this technology was in the film version of "Lost in Space," where they were to travel between two "portals" instantaneously (obviously didn't work!). Side note...this movie contained a young version of the warm-to-the-touch actress Lacey Chabert. Click that link at your own discretion.
Anyway, the massively massively massive amount of energy required to fold space is currently contained in a relatively familiar object: a star. This is what Dyson was getting at when he suggested his Dyson Sphere, which was basically a giant solar panel around a star, capturing 100% of it's output. Currently, the Earth uses less than 1% of the Sun's total output...and of that, humans capture less than .01% with photovoltaics.
Now, obviously there is no point to travel to a faraway star system if that star is shrouded in solar panels and can't provide energy for the local planets, so the best use would be to find a habitable planet that orbits a binary star system and build a Dyson sphere around the non-essential, smaller star, then use that energy to power the massive portal that would fold the galaxy and connect it to a far away point. Do this, and you don't need to travel faster than light.
What the hell am I talking about? Imagine a big, square brick of sponge. This is "space". If you put your fingers on opposite points of the sponge and push them towards one another, you have effectively folded space. It takes energy from your arms to hold the sponge in that configuration. This is the energy that would be harnessed by the Dyson Sphere, and used to power the portal.
Or at least, that's how I'd do it.
If you then print 1 trillion more pieces of paper but still have the same amount of gold, the value of each piece of paper effectively moves to zero.
So when Ben Bernanke says "I'm going to print a TON of money and use it to buy government bonds," not only does that weaken the dollar, but it weakens the government. Their bonds are now owned by an organization whose monetary strategies are similar to the little kid who thinks four pennies is worth more than one nickel.
I haven’t actually read the book but my understanding is that in Atlas Shrugged they’re actually building a high-speed rail link from Las Vegas to Disneyland.
Then, two weeks later:
Atlas Shrugged is a stupid book, Ayn Rand is a stupid woman, and John Galt’s ideas are stupid. That said, none of them are nearly this stupid. Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms, then come to the government hat-in-hand asking for bailouts, then find that the bailers-out want to attach some strings to their hundreds of billions of dollars in public funds and then go to hide out in Galt’s Gulch.
Wow, Matthew Yglesias read the thousand page Atlas Shrugged in two weeks! he even read John Galt's 50+ page soliloquy! And he did so after making fun of people who had already read the book. How noble of him.
Or maybe he just read the wikipedia entry like the rest of us.
Fair enough, but really, most of America puts their jobs on the back burner for a couple weeks during March (April) Madness. Why should we expect differently of President Obama?
In the movie Iron Man, this problem is solved with a mystical "arc reactor" which basically appears to be a fictionalized derivation of a Tokamak toroidal fusion reactor.
Here's my idea. Obviously this comes with a warning that it completely impractical and unlikely to even get the notice of scientists who work on this sort of thing.
1. Silver-palladium hydride (material used in catalytic converters) is used to filter normal air and capture hydrogen and deuterium through a series of tubes into a capture-vessel.
2. Hydrogen is separated from the deuterium. The hydrogen is separated into two streams, and the first stream is then combusted to drive a tiny piston that in turn drives the fan that blows the air through the silver-palladium catalytic converter...producing more hydrogen and deuterium
3. The hydrogen combustion produces water, which is fed into a small tank. The deuterium is then injected into this tank and bombarded with neutrons, producing tritium.
4. The neutrons come from the second stream of captured hydrogen that is driven through a tiny linear accelerator and collided, producing a relatively safe neutron stream that is directed into the deuterium-enriched water.
5. Process 4 produces a lot of heat, so some of the water from the hydrogen combustion is piped around the linear accelerator, cooling it through evaporation.
6. The tritium is agitated by directing it through a series of oppositely polarized magnetics, causing it to aggressively decay, which produces Helium-3 and an electron.
7. The electron is captured and used in a betavoltaic power device that powers the suit.
8. The Helium-3 is directed into the neutron stream used to produce the tritium and it converts back into tritium, the bi-product of which is hydrogen, which can be fed back into the main hydrogen stream.
Now I don't know if this would work, and it probably wouldn't, but if you could get this going, you basically get electricity out of air, with no emission of anything except water vapor.
The major hurdles are:
1. Is the hydrogen produced by the catalytic converter capable of combusting and driving the fan plus feeding the linear accelerator?
2. How does the linear accelerator get its power?
3. How much tritium can possibly be produced? How many electrons can be produced from decaying this tritium?
4. Would this fit into a device that a person could wear?
There are probably much, much easier ways of producing electrons (like rubbing a balloon in your hair) but this was the only one I could quickly surmise that could be (in a fantasy world) produced from air.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Last night, Mrs. TAE and I watched the excellent movie "Iron Man" and it reminded me of my early dreams of building bionic limbs. Back in college, intoxicated by my own ambitions and not yet mathematically eliminated from qualifying for med school, I had planned to enter an M.D/Ph.D. program and start my own research lab to create mechanical replacement limbs for amputees. This was all before DARPA decided to do exactly that.
Of course, the bionic limb I had built in my mind was way cooler than that rudimentary device the RIC has successfully tested. I had dreamed up actual nerve/wire interfaces, so the existing nerve ends (at the amputation point) could be mated directly to the device. For forearm amputees, I had dreamed up a "universal mount" that would allow the user to attach and detach different types of hands and tools, depending on the users requirements (think Princess Mombi from Return To Oz).
When it came down to it, I really had two major problems. One was the application of an existing or creation of a new mechanical servo to mimic muscle and apply force. The other was the source of power for the devices. I used to tell my friend Sara, who was an engineering student, that I needed her to develop a power supply that provided 10 amps of 208V 3phase power for 10 hours, and fit inside a box the size of a DVD drive. I said if she could design that, I'd buy the rights to it from her for 10 million dollars. She laughed me off, and went on to be an aerospace engineer at Boeing in Seattle.
Nevertheless, as I watched Ironman last night with my wife, I was reminded of those early dreams to build parts for amputees, and then I thought about at the RIC model and I think their problem is that they are trying to play Chopin before they learn "Chopsticks." I appreciate their efforts to turn amputees back into fully functional people; hell, that was my idea since I was in my teens, but I feel like there are maybe some more practical points from which to build a knowledge base (that wouldn't require quite so much DOD funding).
Just to make a point, cars weren't invented as cars. The internal combustion engine, the differential gear set, the wheel and axle, steering, brakes, and roads were all designed and created independently of one another, or as gradual evolutions of a product. Daimler just was the first one to successfully package them all together into a readily marketable product. Shouldn't the same be true for something as complicated as a human limb? It took Nature something like 3.7 billion years (give or take a few hundred million) to develop the modern, opposable-thumb-equipped human arm, why should we believe we can do the same in 5 years?
Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to first just create simple forearm assist devices, that might plug into the wall for power, and help someone with degenerative joint disease do tasks that are currently too painful? They might type on the computer with no problem, but given a more strenuous task, say crushing an aluminum pop can after they finish drinking it, the force sensors located in the hand would sense a threshold had been reached and exceeded, and the mechanical arm would kick in, keeping the actual force the wearer applied below a limit by applying its own force instead.
Anyway, the point is that the development of the most successful machines in the world, be it by Nature or by Man, were done by pulling together various successful pieces and turning them into a new, advanced machine.
Mrs. TAE is going to be done with her school soon, and I mull the decision to leave my job and get my Ph.D. in this stuff, which I consider way cool.
Read this 6 page
And besides, me building a super suit in my garage makes for a way cooler story than some stuffy government program!
Speaking of Iron Man, check out this star studded cast for the sequel:
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Mickey Rourke as Whiplash
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Don Cheadle as War Machine
Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
My personal favorite polymant is Shen Kuo, who was basically Leonardo da Vinci except 400 years earlier and a lot smarter. Shen Kuo once wrote that the reason he excelled in so many things was that he looked for the synergies between different subjects. For example, while learning cartography he discovered some petrified bamboo far inland...and surmised the idea of climate change. He then concluded that the earth could generate new landforms through some as yet determined mechanism...and then invented the seismograph to track that mechanism - earthquakes.
He invented the compass, and the drydock.
He hypothesized that rainbows were caused by sunlight refracting through raindrops.
He wanted to track the movements of the moon and all known planets...so invented a new armillary sphere to do so.
He enjoyed poetry and politics.
He reported some of the first known accounts of UFOs.
So bear with me when I write about topics other than engineering. I'm just trying to be a polymath.
Ross Douthat makes the argument that a Republican ideologist could do exactly what I predicted a third party candidate would have done. The argument he makes seems to me to be based on the idea that the existing Republican party is essentially done, none of the names he suggests are people who have run for President before, nor are the few that the media has claimed the Republicans may be interested in nominating.
He also mentions the old fan favorite, Ron Paul. I don't blame him, when I think of Republicans and strong ideologies that don't mesh with the current mainstream Republican party, I immediately think of Ron Paul.
I feel this is an issue that we should revisit because Obama's approval rating has slipped, especially among right-leaning voters. Part of McCain's problem was that many conservatives weren't especially enchanted with him. The more and more Obama leans left (away from his centrist campaign promises) the more and more the conservatives rally against him.
All this paves the way for a third party candidate. The Republicans are still by and large incompetent, or easily shown to be by a shrewd candidate. The Dems could easily look like failures, if things haven't turned around by late 2010. A third party ideologue could easily paint both parties as the past, and step forward as the bright, shiny, alternative.
The Republicans would be smart to beat that joke to the punchline, however, and choose amongst them a relatively mainstream, conservative ideologue of their own. If the Republicans can say "we're still us, but we're better," with sufficient volume, and show off their new, smart, Lex Luthor to the Dems Superman, they could very likely make a smart run in 2012.
But if the Republicans don't wisely choose their next candidate, I think they're doomed. Obama has his Lincoln-worship, the Republicans need a candidate with Jefferson-worship.
I've argued here before that the Federal government is a dead entity; I really think it no longer effectively addresses the needs of the people, and instead is completely preoccupied with national level issues. If you want to effectively govern smaller areas, like "states" then the Federal government needs to re-acknowledge the 10th Amendment and back off.
But the same is true for states. As effective as a well-written letter or phone call might be to your State senator, there are a myriad of local government officials you could contact and actually talk to a living human being and get a response that wasn't a form letter. Many state representatives work out of their homes, hold other jobs, and are readily available to the point that people could effectively waltz right up to them and discuss policy. Here in the Great Plains, mass transit really isn't a major issue, but gun control is. Members of the state government are much more likely to respond to your comments and opinions, as they are more sensitized to keeping your vote.
Monday, March 16, 2009
In the comments on my previous posts about charity, a central theme has appeared. Humans, it is argued, are certainly beneficent and in most cases copiously so: it would seem humans are totally preoccupied with concern for their fellow man. But in most cases of charity, apprehension from vague to bordering on paranoia exists, as people note poignant examples of governments either inefficiently using charitable donations, or governments corruptly using the charitable donations as a revenue stream.
Here, it is noted that genocidal maniac (for whom the international police have an arrest warrant) turned Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir has declared that all foreign aid organizations must vacate his country by the end of 2009. Sudan currently has nearly 3 million displaced citizens, and estimates, though vague, credit more than 300,000 ethnic deaths to al-Bashir's government. In equivalent U.S. terms, if Obama were to do the same thing, he would have to wipe out the entire population of Kansas, then require everyone in the states of: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to vacate the premises immediately and move elsewhere.
Al-Bashir would prefer that humanitarian aid be dropped off at Sudanese seaports so his government can dole the aid out as they see fit. Because, you know, the people that need it will definitely get it that way...
So 1 in 10 Sudanese citizens is either dead or a refugee, and there appears to be nothing the United States is going to do about it. This is barely a bottom of the webpage blip in the news of the day. And now foreign aid is expected to dry up, and media coverage is expected to be blocked. For the Sudanese citizens, this is going from crisis to nightmare.
To me, many of the comments (and a few emails) I have received on this topic have amounted to basically a smorgasbord of "why I don't donate" excuses. I have heard comments like "the U.S. government would waste what I donate" to "foreign government would just pocket my donation" to "educating the poor is more effective than feeding them" to "I only donate out of guilt" to "I am donating less now so I'll be wealthier later and I'll donate more then" to "there are so many charities, I cannot decide where to donate" to my personal favorite "what's the point? The world is f*cked."
All of these beliefs, though I respect the people who wrote them, seem to me to be a lot of shuffling feet. If you want to talk about an overwhelming mass of spending options, just think about cars. There are around 20 major car brands readily available in this country. Each car maker hosts a myriad of different models to suit each personal style preference and required utility. I needed a commuter, so I bought the tiny little Honda Del Sol, which also has enough flash (or it did back when I bought it) and zip to satisfy my machismo. For every person in America, there is a car they can research and test drive, for which they can get financed, and subsequently buy.
Americans typically find car shopping an onerous chore, make no mistake, but the greedy eagerness of a consumerist culture has turned the act of car shopping into a delightful affair, with salespersons ready to help, massive discounts and inflateable gorillas to lure in the timid shopper, and expansive websites with car customization tools to encourage daydreaming. And at the end of the car shopping sojourn, Americans proudly drive home their new "baby" and show it to their friends and neighbors.
Why can't it be the same for charities? Part of the reason is that there is no take-home appeal. You can't send a check to the Boy Scouts of America and then take home a car. Donating your clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army nets you less stuff in your home, not more. Buying food at the grocery store and then dropping it at the Food Bank bins at the door as you leave means you have less food at home. Buying a car causes you to spend invisible stuff called credit, and gain tangible stuff called aluminum, steel, and leather. Donating to a charity loses you tangible stuff called cash and nets you invisible stuff called philanthropy. Who wants to get nothing for something?
Further, the act of sending a check to a faceless organization that claims to benefit overseas peoples requires a massive leap of faith, one which most individuals are not willing to take. A charity claims on their website to feed a starving child for a month for $13 bucks, but where is their guarantee? And where is the itemized list of what food the child will eat? Is it possible the food (through the wonder of bulk purchasing) actually only costs $2 a month and the other $11 is pocketed by the organization's fat-cat beaureaucrats? And if they spend your whole donation to feed starving children, where on earth do they get their advertising cash?
And that fear is understandable, as evidenced by a bitingly accurate Southpark episode featuring Sally Struthers. Not all charitable organizations are effectively spending their revenue. Some use part of their revenue for charity, and part to lobby government officials to ban abortions, or to further whatever political agenda they have that may or may not have anything to do with the people they are claiming to aid.
To people who find that fear so crippling that they cannot summon the will to donate to an international organization (or simply do not do so out of perceived pragmatism), I suggest the following: donate local. If you write a check to your local community center, and on the memo line write "for education of the poor" they will in fact use it for that, and that alone. Most small-scale charities, like food banks, community centers, and local churches, are fairly religious about following the memo line to the letter. Or, if like me you are an ardent lover of nature, donate to the local botanical garden or wildlife sanctuary, and use a specific memo line to direct your money where you would like it to go. In my case, because of my profession, I like to write "memo: for new building/renovation use only".
But above all, I suggest you consider the car shopping example above, before you give me more excuses to not donate. In America we find reason after reason to buy, replace, or upgrade, and we find reason after reason not to donate. If we all took charity as seriously as we took car shopping, the amount of giving would go up, and the effectiveness of those dollars would also go up. Make a list of what you like to do, and what you'd like underprivileged to be able to do, then look online for charities that support those causes. Narrow down to the ones that are local, or are represented by a celebrity you know to be a genuine person. Further narrow those down to ones that appear to require your aid immediately. And then write a check and put it in the mail before that little voice in your head starts telling you all the other things on which you should be spending that money.
And as for Sudan, and corrupt leaders all over the world who are pocketing charitable donations meant for their oppressed peoples, though it may seem we are helpless to stop them , we should all consider an old fashioned method for bringing about change: writing your local representative a thoughtful, polite letter demanding they acknowledge there is a problem. I have a nice, open dialogue going with Senator Sam Graves (an alumni of my fraternity chapter whom I have met on several occasions) about the need for natural resource protection in the face of overwhelming and manipulative corn-based biodiesel lobbying, and although he may consider my words and then promptly ignore them, when enough voices shout the same thing at the same person, eventually they take note. Or they lose the next election.
Update: I just want to thank all the commentors for their thoughtful replies; though I disagree to a certain extent with many of you, the dialogue is essential and I appreciate and enjoy your well-written dissent.
This article points out something that has always bothered me. My generation (people born 1980-2000) has been labeled the Entitlement Generation. But a correlation does not mean causality, so just because the author could dig up a story about a kid who moved home to his parents house, and a girl who is using her unemployment checks to finance her European tour does not mean the entire generation is a bunch of spoiled brats. Many of the people here at my firm that fall into this age bracket work like dogs, and outperform the Gen X'ers here, who are stagnating. Of course, I'm not saying we're all like the people at my firm, but every generation is much too large to typify based on a few unhealthy examples.
Friday, March 13, 2009
"Give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish feed him for life" A cliche that should echo more and more with the choices we make to fix starvation. I do not see long run benefit to donating to charities to feed children unless those charities teach the citizens of those areas how to use their land to create food for themselves. Basically, I would rather donate money to a cause that would work toward remedying the problem forever, not remedy the problem til next month.
That's fine, and is Adam's choice. But my point is this: donate now. Too many people are waiting until they believe they are economically comfortable enough to do something. This, to me, seems like a psychological cop-out. "I want to do something, I really do...just not today."
It's similar to "I'll quit smoking tomorrow." or "I'll go on a diet tomorrow," or government's favorite "We'll tighten the emission standards for vehicles...in 2020." People make long-term promises too often because they know that they'll never be forced to uphold them.
People are starving now, people need an education now, oppressed peoples need the global community to act on their behalf now. Charity given when convenient is not charity. Charity must be given at any opportunity.
Going back to Adam's comment, we are shown the pure genius of Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Did the Samaritan see the long-term benefit in clothing the beaten man laying on the side of the road? Did he think about the idea that if he kept his two silver coins, he could later invest them in a school for people who might later go into law enforcement and stop highway robbers from doing to others what was done to the robbed man? No. The Samaritan made a single, instantaneous act of charity without thought on the personal value of that act. We who consider ourselves Christians too often forget that the point of Christianity is to follow the teachings of Jesus. Not to be adjudicators of what is and isn't good, effective charity.
Clearly, the Parable of the Good Samaritan strikes the critical thinker as a dumb way for a Samaritan to throw his money away, waste some good clothes, and not behave the way a Samaritan should. But the point Jesus makes is that charity must be given when the opportunity presents itself, not when it is convenient and valuable to the donater.
But I do not mock Adam's decision to invest in education of the under-privileged. But I challenge Adam, and people who believe as he does, to do so now, instead of later when you think you will be better able to afford it.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Of course he is, now that he's been caught. Six months ago, he was "filthy rich and incredibly successful" and felt neither sorrow nor shame for having swindled and spent $50 billion dollars.
People that express sorrow, but only do so after being caught (and not turning themselves in) deserve the deepest burny places of Hell.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This afternoon I heard on the radio that today is Global Food Crisis Day, and that a starving child could have food for an entire month for the magic sum of $13. So if I donated $52 a month I could keep four starving children alive, and my net monthly income would not change, I could go on living the happy American life I am living?
We are we all not signing up for this immediately? Honestly, its money you didn't budget for, you might as well do some good with it.
I am not coming down on you if you don't do as I do, and throw this money at a losing cause like starving children in third world countries, but seriously, is your $13 a week worth more to you than a human life?
I couldn't help but notice, as I scanned through the last dozen or so blog posts, that I am being a negative person about the world. This is, though mostly through necessity, a potentially unhealthy behavior mostly for myself but also for my regular readers.
So here's some good news.
A man, climbing a 35 foot power pole slipped and began to fall to his death. Fortunately, his pants caught on a protrusion from the pole, and his fall stopped. He dangled for a short while until rescuers were able to lower him to safety.
Iran does not yet have the technology or refined uranium necessary to create nuclear weapons.
And the sun is shining.
Last week the world caught on fire because Rush claimed he "wants Obama to fail." or at least that was what was reported by James Carville, speaking on CNN. "He's the Daddy of the Republican Congress."
Of course, what wasn't reported was that James Carville, on Sept 11, 2001, mere minutes before the first plane hit the WTC in NYC, said he wanted Bush to fail. "I certainly don't want him to succeed," he stated.
Which proves really nothing to me, except that political analysts are scum, often more so than the politicians they are paid to analyze.
Obama, March 2009: Sometimes earmarks are used for good, and I will try to stop pork barrel projects in the future, but for now, we need to get this bill signed.
I'm beginning to feel more than a little jaded.
I was thinking, the perfect stimulus needs to be something that makes it important to get wealthy people, who have a ton of money, to spend it on goods and services produced by the middle and lower classes. They need to do so immediately, and they need to do so in large numbers. Further, it shouldn't cost the government a lot of money to get the rich people to spend their money. If the government just gives rich people a check for a thousand dollars, economists argue that only like 75 cents of that will actually be spent boosting the economy. Plus, liberals would argue that the rich people already have way more money than they need.
So here's the TAE Omnibus Economic Stimulus Package (TAEOESP):
Whenever you see a Mercedes, Lexus, Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus, or any other vehicle you are fairly sure cost more than $50,000 you should pick up a brick and smash that vehicles windshield in.
Obviously, these people in their fancy car can afford to buy a new windshield! And they'll have to, no one can reasonably drive a car that has a brick stuck through the windshield, or no windshield at all. Most windshield installers are in the lower two income brackets, so all that windshield replacing will save jobs (or create more). The factories that produce windshields will be maxed out, and will need to hire more factory workers! The car dealerships will be maxed out trying to get all the windshields installed! The rich people will have contributed to the economy! The income stream to U.S. automakers might save that industry!
I see absolutely no reason why this wouldn't get the economy going, it is, in my humble opinion, foolproof.
Oh, and if all these wealthy people will try to get their insurance company to pay for the windshield replacement, then obviously we will need to preemptively nationalize auto insurance companies (to be reprivatized later, of course).
List of Obama picks who have withdrawn:
List of Obama picks with tax issues:
List of Obama picks that have made huge international politics blunders:
Honestly, when I started this post I didn't think the list would be that long. I think what we're seeing here is Obama's bold decisiveness even in the face of huge mistakes. At the same point in Bush 43's first term, he had only nominated half as many people, and Clinton had only nominated slightly more than half as many people at this point in his Presidency. Obama maybe should start vetting before he nominates, it might save a little more political face?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
One day, you complain about the world being overpopulated, the next day you complain about scientists wasting time on other things rather than saving lives.
The harsh truth is that in order for the world population to go down or for growth to slow, people have to die.
So saving more lives seems like speeding up the inevitability of complete overpopulation.
Suffice it to say, I find this more than a little offensive. When I advocated population control on March 5th, I advocated responsible family size as an effective means to reach a sustainable population equilibrium. I never advocated genocide and starvation as effective global population control tools. Slobodan Milosevic advocated those techniques, and he was an evil, evil man.
What I am advocating is that every human deserves a fair chance to live a good, free life, and things like clean water and vaccines do a lot more to further that aim than chimpanzee imagination research. I am advocating that humans, given an increased awareness of their place in the Earth's ecosystem, will willingly choose to reduce the average family size to 2.0 children, and the population will equilibrate. Yes, people will die, but from old age, or from diseases that could not be easily conquered, like cancer. They won't die because they couldn't defend themselves from oppressive regimes or from cholera or because they were denied basic food and water access.
What this commenter is poignantly illustrating is that many Americans have developed a keen sense of NIMBY. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is a blanket philosophy that refers to many things, like Americans overwhelming support for clean, nuclear power...just not anywhere near large populations. Or the idea that even though some parts of Africa have a 40% HIV positive population, an AIDS vaccine is a waste of research dollars because few Americans die from AIDS nowadays. Or that it's okay that a million people die of starvation every 40 days, because most of them are faceless entities separated by an ocean and two income brackets.
Starvation and disease-related deaths are simply the unfortunate ends to unfortunate people, says the NIMBY philosophy. These are the "harsh truths" of the world, as the commenter puts it.
But they don't have to be. Starvation, cholera, malaria, and many other diseases that kill millions of people every year are easily treatable, easily fixable problems that could make the world a lot less harsh place.
It just bothers me that so many of us here, in the land of plenty, seem to think its okay for the world population to be slowed by starvation and disease...as long as it is other people who are doing the dying.
Monday, March 9, 2009
This of course, is a departure from the typical chimp behavior, which is to crap in its own hand and throw poo at zoo visitors.
Moments like this, where scientists go "Eureka" and proclaim a huge, sudden, greater understanding of the universe make me chuckle. Because there are 25,000 human being on this planet who will be dead from starvation in 24 hours time, but these scientists have devoted their lives to the study of chimpanzee imagination.
Don't get me wrong. The study of worthwhile science is a great and noble enterprise, and if humans didn't have the natural inclination to explore and discover, we'd be throwing poo too, but as it stands, not only does the study of chimpanzee imagination and mischief-making seem like a waste of some perfectly sharp human brains that could be studying more significant and pressing problems, but it also seems like a huge waste of grant money. Furthermore, we as a society tend to overlook the small bad when the local bad piles up. We're worried about our economy, and things like that, so something far away, like thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people dying every day from starvation, disease, and violence in third world countries is an easy issue to put on the back burner and ignore.
Research like this, studying chimpanzee nefariousness, strikes me that scientists often ask themselves "what haven't we studied yet that's easy to publish?"