Friday, May 30, 2003

I agree with so much of this, from Colby Cosh from May 27:
How are markets like science? Science existed for a good long while before, at some point, science became an object of study in itself, resulting in a "revolution" within Western civilization. People became aware of the power and methodology of science more or less simultaneously. Markets, similarly, have always existed, but only recently became an object of study. Adam Smith was the Francis Bacon of markets. The Market-istic Revolution is still ongoing, and it is as important as the Scientific Revolution. There are a lot of people who still don't, and won't, get that. I believe that, at some future time, the authority or credibility of the market as a means of organizing a certain kind of social activity will be taken for granted, much as science's authority or credibility is now taken for granted by those hostile to it. Science is bogusly criticized for not being able to arrive at all possible truths--deemed useless or inferior (or challenged as a quasi-religion) because it is, at any given stage of history, incomplete or imperfect. Similarly, because there are some kinds of social ordering which the market cannot handle, it is sometimes written off (and very often as a quasi-religion) on similar grounds. We will one day--I am certain of this--feel the need to teach economics as a basic subject in schools, as we now teach science.
Colby thinks that's obvious, but I'd have to say only to people who think similarly. There exist a number of people who refuse to treat economics with anything like the seriousness they afford to science (and you rarely find the other way around).

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

An article I wrote has been published in Czechoslovakia, under the name Lisa Dusseaultova. Sorry it's just an image, not the article -- Xythos developers in Brno scanned this in for me.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

From Kunstler's online memoirs:
The main difference between the person I was before and the one I became after is that I came to understand how much I was responsible for what happened to me in all aspects of my life, and responsible too for how I felt about what happened to me. In fact, I learned that mostly things don't just happen to us. We make choices to act, or to not act, and that makes all the difference in the world. Here you are in the world. What will you do?

Monday, May 19, 2003

Lileks reviews Lifeforce today:
I have a crick in my neck from ducking the chunks it blew.
Yet it's a long funny review -- sometimes the worst movies are the best for a rant. See also Ekr's review of Shaolin Drunken Monk if you haven't already.
An unlikely event like this (link via Sullivan) makes you wonder if our probability estimates are wrong. Then again, given enough chances, unlikely events are eventually likely to happen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

From Ask Cecil:
The rear wall ... is parabolic in cross section when viewed from above, and the porcelain finish is conducive to laminar flow. The principles of fluid dynamics tell us that a fluid striking a smooth surface at an oblique angle will tend to flow along that surface. Assuming the source of the fluid is near the focal point of the parabola... the fluid will run straight down the wall with little or no splashing.
He is, of course, discussing a urinal, in response to a question about where to aim. I'm glad to hear that considerable Science goes into the design of these. I only wish equivalent Science went into making sure that toilets flushed reliably, but judging by the homes I've lived in, that isn't yet entirely successful.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Mark Steyn, interviewed on Enter Stage Right, illustrates Canadian anti-Americanism:
The other day The Ottawa Citizen had a letter from a Vancouver lady objecting to any Canadian participation in continental missile defence on the grounds that an intercepted nuke could wind up scattering contaminated debris over the Canadian countryside. The logic of her position is that she'd rather that nuke continued on its way over the border and took out Dallas or St Louis. Say what you like, but that 's consistent.
And Natalie Solent fights UK anti-Americanism, pointing out that the British Margaret Drabble's hatred of airplanes painted with vicious faces doesn't justify the feelings it aroused given the RAF has also followed that practice.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Today I've been following links to blogs I don't usually visit (in between working). The Agora caught my attention due to the sentence
Palin is to educational TV what Jean Sebelius is to 20th Century classical music: an unlikly person to take a form that has failed to live up to its seemingly infinite potential, and astound you with a presentation of a vast subject in a simple and intimatly human performance.
I feel compelled to pay attention to the aesthetic opinions of a man who can make that kind of comparison.

Friday, May 09, 2003

More non-serious stuff: Psycho Kittens. These made me laugh so hard tears came out of my eyes. I'm still giggling remembering them.
A link containing Science for Terence and Ekr.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The US government has now increased its official estimate of the oil reserves in Alberta. (Link via Colby Cosh)
At a briefing on this year's EIA International Energy Outlook, EIA Administrator Guy Caruso ... raised Canada's proven oil reserves to 180 billion bbls from 4.9 billion bbls, thanks to inclusion of the oil sands - also known as tar sands - now considered recoverable with existing technology and market conditions.
My dad has had a little to do with this recent technology. This is a perfect example of what I've discussed before (unfortunately links back to this blog archive are not working).

Friday, May 02, 2003

The Remote Fart Machine. Link courtesy Ami Simms.
Ekr and I have discovered a simple new toy recently: MegaMagz or GeoMags. They're clearly fun for adults, to the point where he and I fought over them one evening soon after getting a small set. Adults can figure out how to make hinges or rotational joints, maximizing the magnetic attraction by the careful arrangement of the balls and bars in certain alignments, maximizing rotational momentum and so on. Yet they're also fun for kids below the suggested lower end of the age range. We gave a set to a 3-year old on his birthday and he immediately constructed a stick out of several short bars, then discovered that his magnetic stick was able to pick up a ball bearing just by getting near it. He named this his "finder stick" and started rolling the steel bearings under the couch so he could then stick his "finder stick" in there to retrieve them. Last week we gave a set to a 4-year old for her birthday and now her mother tells me:
[She] has suddenly discovered that magnets can not only stick things together, but can attract and repel each other. She's been walking around with pieces of the magnetics set you gave her, building things and showing everyone how it works, for a day and a half.
I guess the age ranges they put on toy boxes are completely arbitrary. Sure a three year old can swallow a ball bearing -- but they can also get into far more dangerous stuff. Better just to teach them judgement and motor control by that age and then deal with the occasional mishap (like when I was three and I stuck a bean up my nose and couldn't get it out) with as much calm as you can muster. Somebody on Epinions has similarly ignored the age recommendations -- she recommends Magz and talks about how her four-year-old plays with them.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

In a lovely essay on being persecuted by the number 7 (link via Colby Cosh), George Miller presents (among other things) the concept of recoding to remember more stuff. There are some nice illustrations of how this works:
It is a little dramatic to watch a person get 40 binary digits in a row and then repeat them back without error. However, if you think of this merely as a mnemonic trick for extending the memory span, you will miss the more important point that is implicit in nearly all such mnemonic devices. The point is that recoding is an extremely powerful weapon for increasing the amount of information that we can deal with. In one form or another we use recoding constantly in our daily behavior.

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