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Comment: And how much do we spend on Software Research? (Score 2) 287

by MarkWegman (#48744145) Attached to: Should We Be Content With Our Paltry Space Program?
If you look at the budget for Research in Software Engineering, which is more important to the economy and has as many scientific challenges, you'll find it's not paltry it's infinitesimal.

After WWII the country believed Gov't worked and was good for people. We believed that the space program was a response to a Russian threat. We have somewhat the same motivations now, expect that a large number of people believe any money spent by the Gov't is bad. We muster much more money now for big machines because OMG it would be terrible if the Chinese had a machine faster than ours. In science we are more motivated to use money to fight competition, not because it will help our society. We are also of course motivated by things people understand, e.g. curing cancer, though strangely not fighting diseases like Ebola which we think is restricted to Africa and which congress did not fund at the levels requested.

There's a real distortion in what we spend and what people think we spend. Polls have been conducted about whether we spend too much or too little on various items in the discretionary budget. They often think for example that many believe we spend too much on foreign aid, and those same people believe we spend more than 10x what we really do on foreign aid.

Comment: A yet better IBM keyboard (Score 1) 304

by MarkWegman (#48095141) Attached to: The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made
The IBM PC keyboard is a very nice keyboard, but it was an attempt to make a cheaper keyboard which was almost as good as the keyboard on a 3270 terminal. You can see a picture of it here: The feel was better than the buckling spring keys, though those were a close imitation. The keys on the 3270 were shaped a bit better. On "modern" aka "inferior" keyboards there's usually a bump on the "f" and "j" keys. On the 3270 keyboards the f and j keys actually had a deeper cup. Most people never knew it was there, because the deeper cup was not bothersome like the bumps are. But your hands "knew" when you were off the home keys so it solved the same problem as the bump. But, the 3270 keyboard was much more massive than the more modern ones as well as more expensive. It was much deeper so there could be more mechanisms below the keys and that enabled a better feel than the buckling spring. It also permitted the keys to be deeper and accommodate the cups for f and j. Typing on them felt better though. On the other hand the display on the 3270 and it's successor the 3279 (the color version) wasn't in the same league as what we have today.

Comment: Re:Will the cameras work? (Score 1) 643

by MarkWegman (#47772173) Attached to: U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras
You may remember a famous 18 minute gap where the recording in the White House were inadvertently erased. That was perceived by pretty much the entire country as fairly good evidence that the president had done something impeachable. Erasing after the fact is going to be hard. Covering the lens beforehand will show as a pattern.

Comment: Re:Useless (not if you read the article) (Score 1) 177

by MarkWegman (#47621319) Attached to: Algorithm Predicts US Supreme Court Decisions 70% of Time
The article talks about predicting decisions going back to 1953. It also says it's easy to come up with good predictors for specific time ranges. Your rejection algorithm works well for the last year or so, but the article you cite is based on the last years statistics only. The actual article talks about using a whole pile of inputs and learning a good predictor. It sounds like it would have easily learned your strategy, though the article isn't clear. Apparently the algorithm is doing just about as well as humans trying to predict the decision, where the best humans have just a small amount better track record.

Comment: Workers are Better Off (Score 1) 778

by MarkWegman (#47493919) Attached to: States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth
There is a mixed economic record of what happens to unemployment when you raise the minimum wage when there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs. This adds some more evidence showing lack of correlation but not about causation. But the evidence is clear that for those employed raising the minimum wage is a very big win. The minimum wage will still keep people in poverty. It will keep Walmart workers needing to get food stamps, with the federal government in essence subsidizing the Walmart pay. The CBO's original estimate said there were different models for what would happen to unemployment, some increasing is slightly some even decreasing it. But the original estimate also showed that it would help a wide swath of Americans. The problem with the current economic situation is a lack of demand and that companies are hording money instead of spending it. If everyone and every company decided to go out and buy the sellers would feel better and since most buyers are actually also sellers we'd all do well. Raising minimum wage causes some more spending and that's good. That's not to say that it's always good. If the economy were overheating and minimum wage workers were paid say 10% of what corporate CEO's were, raising the minimum wage would probably be bad. But we're no where near that.

Comment: Read TFA (Score 2) 322

by MarkWegman (#47190053) Attached to: Fixing China's Greenhouse Gas Emissions For Them
The actual op-ed column by Krugman is mostly celebrating that the US is finally doing something. He then goes over all the excuses used to justify inaction. One of those is that we can't do anything because China might... He then points out that if that happens, China could be pressured by us.

In other columns and particularly his blog, which usually has much more data (and visualizations of the data etc) http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c... Krugman is well aware that the US must act before the rest just because we are one of the biggest offenders here with much more CO2 use per capita than others.

Comment: Hydrogen-Boron reaction (Score 1) 280

This article covers the pros and cons of Hydrogen-Boron reaction. You do avoid the nasty neutron radiation issues but at a cost of needing 10 times the kind of temperature we have spent decades trying to achieve. While the posting says much of the energy is easy to convert to electricity a lot of it escapes as photons. The fact that the article in the posting doesn't cite the issues suggests that it's not a balanced article and is the kind you'd expect for fundraising from naive people (aka us). I do agree with some of the comments above that it's a shame that boards of scientists who know the issues don't have funds to distribute to crazy ideas like this with potential huge payoffs, without politicians complaining that when scientists take a risk they mostly fail.

Comment: Re:Paul Krugman, 1998 (Score 1) 187

by MarkWegman (#46271177) Attached to: Krugman: Say No To Comcast Acquisition of Time Warner
Krugman admits to not be a technologist. In the above quote he was asked to be provocative and he was -- and was wrong and admits that. However, this merger is more an economic issue and there he's studied (and has a Nobel) and prognosticated with a high degree of accuracy. Can he be wrong -- sure. Can this merger wreak economic problems for the economy -- more likely. We know monopolies can be bad and too much economic power can cause problems. The burden of proof is really on those who want to argue this will be good for the overall economy and other businesses.

Comment: Ignore the data (Score 1) 212

Let's see. The RNC and it's friends want to teach Creationism as part of Science. They want to ignore mountains of data on Global Climate Change. They "unscewed" the polls last time around to believe they were going to win -- when their candidate was the most data driven businessman they could find. The economic evidence for austerity based changes or New Keynesian show the Keynesians have been much more accurate in predictions about things like inflation rates and GDP growth. We could go on and on. There's a reason that people say facts (or data) have a well known liberal bias. Someone who's really good with data is going to have to have some strange reasons to be a Republican. It will be hard for the Republicans to assemble a good team, knowing that they'll have to work for people that want to ignore what they have to say.

Comment: Re:And this is only sign-up (Score 2) 559

by MarkWegman (#45356855) Attached to: Official Resigns, Website Still a Disaster
Yup. Imagine something as terrible as social security. It seems to many people, who've been trying to repeal it for many years that it can't possibly work at all. Or even worse the concept that other governments who have better mortality figures than the US have medical personnel on their salaries and somehow the cost to their GDP is much less than the US. This law is in fact complicated because we decided that rather than having the government directly run things, we'd have the government pay insurance companies to run things, and extract a profit from running things, and yet have the similar impact on citizens as if the government was running things. The healthcare market has not for a long time been an example of free market where people choose their doctors, especially as they are dieing and when they have insurance in order to make an informed decision about how to save money. Adam Smith's invisible hand has not worked in the context of our system to keep prices down for a long time. The law is a kludge, to fix some of the problems. But it is probably better than what it replaced.

Comment: More than equations are needed (Score 2) 385

Graphs are very helpful in really conveying what is going on. What we need more in discussions of politics is facts and many facts are about numbers. When discussing who has the right model of the US economy you really need to think of it scientifically. Each model is a hypothesis that needs to be tested. Economics is about aggregate behavior and so it's really a statistical statement. Yes the models are equations and those are nice to show too. But you need to show graphs. Folks who are not innumerate often prefer for example what Nate Silver put on to talking heads on TV who use neither equations or graphs. Many folks I know prefer Krugman's blog to what makes it into his columns in the Times.
If you can't show pictures of aggregate behavior you can only tell stories. Those stories can tug at heart strings and motivate people to feel strongly about an issue without really understanding the whole picture. That's one of the problems with our political discourse.

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.