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Comment Re:Schooling, perhaps? (Score 1) 519

The US is the most right wing Western country, and that is the reason why there is such inequality of opportunity - the unions, if anything, are too weak, not too strong.

There are strong teachers' unions in cities like New York and Chicago. You hear about these regularly. Usually it's because some teacher was caught on a camera in some Bronx school doing nothing but reading a newspaper all class long, while the elementary-school students sit around gambling, and he can't be fired, and instead is transferred to a "rubber room" facility where he collects a salary for not doing any work.

Teachers' unions are a hell of a lot closer to the problem in this country than they are the solution, but even though they claim to care about the children more than anything else, they will never consider admitting any fault whatsoever, even in the face of the system's most obvious failure and corruption. They will gladly dish out blame on everyone else for failing schools (administrations, politicians, budgets, parents) but are wholly incapable of countenancing the possibility that their organization might be part of the problem too. It is perhaps the saddest part of American politics.

Comment Re:Hype (Score 2) 207

One of the more interesting speculative ideas that real physicists take seriously is that gravity as a force is a side effect of entropy.

Imagine a spherical screen with radius R surrounding a physical system of mass M. According to the holographic principle, all the physics that takes place within the screen can be described by bits of information that can be thought to be located on the screen. If each bit occupies an area Abit, a total of N = 4ÏR2/Abit bits is available to describe the system surrounded by the spherical screen.


Each bit is associated with a degree of freedom of the system being described. According to the equipartition theorem, each degree of freedom caries on average an energy ½kT, with k representing Boltzmann's constant and T the absolute temperature.


The holographic screen is not a physical screen but rather a thought construct created to represent the information contained in a physical system. How can such a non-entity have a temperature? The Unruh effect lends us a hand here. According to this principle, an observer being accelerated in empty space will record a non-zero temperature of that empty space.

-- Johannes Koelman explaining Erik Verlinde, who's apparently gone and won the Spinoza prize for this work (worth a few cool millions of euro?)

Comment Re:Yep, Unions do nothing (Score 1) 127


Like most self-serving statements from organizations hyperventilating about their unassailable merit, this is overblown propaganda. As an alternative, I refer you to bona fide scholarly research which discusses how the forty-hour week was won

primarily through labor market tightness (wage increases, manufacturing employment expansion, and curtailment of immigration). State and federal government labor market intervention, increased union power, and technological changes in industry played smaller roles.

-- The shortening of the American work week: An economic and historical analysis of its context, causes, and consequences (Whaples, 1990).

Comment Re:NYC taxi system could DESTROY uber (Score 1) 210

In the case of a taxi however, even if they're using a taxi app, there is no guarantee that they're coming to pick you up, because someone else could flag them on the way, they may get a more attractive offer of someone needing a ride to the airport

That is nonsense. Legally questionable, and what taxi business would allow that?

That's not exactly how it works, but it's hardly nonsense. Plenty of NYC taxis break the rules to ask you where you're going and leave you without a ride if they don't want to go there.

Comment Re:Bangalore (Score 1) 464

This is probably true for very small values of "king".

I've just racked my brain and bookmarks and Internet for the source for this figure and can't find it, so I'm probably messing it up a little, but, I seem to recall reading somewhere that the typical American lifestyle today relies on machines that exert approximately the same amount of effort as 60 human laborers. That doesn't account for nearly the same level of opulence as a major king would probably expect, but it's not a bad start either.

Comment Re:SLC, UT (Score 1) 464

Come on - Are us Mormons REALLY bad neighbors? :)

The Mormons are really nice people and ways they've been finding balance on issues like tolerating (and welcoming!) homosexuals while still preserving their core religious values and teachings on the matter are pretty good. Even the (in)famous Orson Scott Card treated the matter with exquisite nuance in his fiction, decades ago in the pre-dawn of our current culture war. If there is hope for real pluralism in our nation and harmony between groups with fundamentally different world-views (instead of just one group bludgeoning the other into compliance) then this and things like the "Utah Compromise" provide a foundation. (A flawed foundation, to be sure, and, Orson Scott Card himself undermined a lot of that with his notorious expression of shock that homosexuals and their political allies are afforded political representation -- this was not so open-minded -- but a good sight better foundation than the oft-proposed alternative of compliance or implicit cultural extermination which is directed at other parts of the Christian right.)

But if you're a non-Mormon and hope to move there, there will still be plenty of people who look at you real funny for purchasing coffee at Starbucks. (gasp! caffeine!) Being in a cultural minority might be a very different experience than you're used to; it takes some real maturity to navigate, and risks leaving you angry and resentful.

Comment Re:Philadelphia area (Score 1) 464

If you're up for a slightly longer commute, you could also live somewhere in/near Philadelphia and commute down to Murder Town USA (Wilmington, DE) to work at any number of corporate headquarters, especially if your'e willing to put up with the financial industry. (Philadelphia's University City area seems to be pretty fancy these days, there's an Amtrak station a stone's throw away, and there's plenty of museums/culture to be had in the city on the weekends.)

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