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Comment Economics challenge (Score 1) 329

Economists tout free trade as benefiting everyone because of rationalizations and predictions. There's no strict math involved, and it is based on flawed assumptions.

I predict that economists will get their dander up and respond with "Nuh-uh!", so here's a challenge.

Without appealing to the argument of "current school of thought holds that...", answer the following questions:

1) What is the right formula for calculating inflation?
2) What's the right value of inflation to have?
3) How important is it to hit this value exactly (ie - is it catastrophic or minor to be off by a percent?)

If you say you can't give a numerical value because "it depends", or "it's complicated", then what is the formula to calculate the value based on the dependencies?

Inflation is a simple concept and there *is* a right/best value to have, but economists are so entangled in "schools of thought" that they don't bother to think things through critically or rationally.

Also, note that inflation dipped negative for a couple of months last year.

Did we just come through another recession?

Comment Okay, I'll bite (Score 1) 329

The concept is that India gets richer, China gets richer, and that leads to peace and more net jobs (for example, Hollywood movies earn much higher international sales

Okay, I'll bite.

Economists tout free trade as benefiting everyone because of rationalizations and predictions. There's no strict math involved, and it is based on flawed assumptions.

In the case of recent outsourcing, two decades ago the populists pointed out that domestic salaries would stay flat or go down.

Economists agreed, but pointed out that because the imported goods would be much cheaper, your purchasing power would actually go up.

And now we see that this actually happened: salaries have largely stagnated over the last two decades, and there are Chinese dollar stores everywhere.

Are we better off from free trade?

This is how rationalizations get sold as science in the economic community.

The flawed assumption is infinite consumption: there will be an ever-expanding need for more goods, which will provide an ever-expanding need for more workers. You'll never run out of jobs, you'll never run out of places to sell your goods.

(Example: Common economic theory states that if you double your sales outlets, you double your income. This is true for small stores, but once you sell through WalMart, you're done. The theory doesn't account for the finite extent of the world.)

We see now that if *every* job gets outsourced, there are no jobs domestically and the economy falters.

But the economists will rationalize it away, saying that this is somehow better for everyone.

Comment Nafta 20 years later (Score 1) 154

If laws can drive industry away, they can keep it around too.

There is little evidence for that. [...] Do you think America would be richer if we produced more t-shirts and fewer aircraft and CPUs?

About 20 years ago when the original NAFTA and its ilk came into being, people complained about exactly this issue. The meme of the day was "a giant sucking sound" as jobs and manufactured goods went South to Mexico.

The non-governmental economists claimed that wages would stagnate.

The government economists responded by saying that wages would stagnate, but the markets would be flooded with cheaper goods, so overall purchasing power would increase.

Here we are 20 years later, wages have stagnated for most workers, and there are Chinese dollar stores everywhere.

It's exactly as the economists predicted.

Do you still like your free trade?

Comment Saner vote (Score 1) 577

Trump is winning out because the saner vote is still split.

Saner vote?

Stop insulting us and start addressing the issues. Insulting people is the sure way to get them to dig in their heels.

Trump is winning because the people want him.

In fact, the only ones who don't like Trump are the elites: talking heads, mainstream media, big corporations, and so on. The "establishment". The Republican side is starting to be completely open in their dislike for him.

The Koch brothers started a super pac specifically to combat Trump. A direct quote from Charles Koch about the Republican primary:

"You’d think we could have more influence"

Here on Slashdot, for the last 16 years we've bemoaned the corruption in politics, how campaign money from corporate interests gives us politicians who are for corporations and against the people.

And when someone who runs without taking money from corporations, their response is: "Anyone except HIM!!!"

(A relevant recent political cartoon)

The current hate dejour is "he's not very presidential". As if leading us into war under false pretenses, ordering an American killed using a secret law, or lying about having sex in the oval office is completely unimportant.


If this keeps up, we're going to get the president we deserve, not the president we need.

Comment Good and evil (Score 4, Insightful) 185

Republicans reject it before it even comes out and refuse to read it.

Because "Obama"

Oh, be fair now...

Remember that Obamacare website? How high quality was that?

How about Obamacare itself? Did cementing health insurance companies into federal law fix any problems?

How about closing Gitmo? How did that work out?

Hell, how about his stance on telecom immunity? How's that working out for us?

Or making up new immigration law by executive order?

Or ordering the assassination of a US citizen? (With no trial, and by authority of a secret law.)

Really. If you want to blame gridlock on the merits of the situation, then do so.

Otherwise, to the casual observer it would appear that "because Obama" is a perfectly valid reason to oppose something.

Because, you know, "good and evil".

Comment Re:hyperloop without the hyper or loop (Score 4, Insightful) 218

"That means operating the hyperloop would require less total energy expenditure than operating an air plane"

Besides the energy needed to ,you know, *build* the entire infrastructure... Which wears out, as opposed to air.

And why do you call it an "air plane" in two words? Are you posting from the 19th century?

The estimated cost of the hyperloop is between $6 and $8 billion.

The cost to build one terminal in a big city airport is in the neighborhood of $2 billion (terminal 4 at JFK, in today's dollars). And the hyperloop would replace two ends, so double that to $4 billion.

So as a quick estimate you could build the hyperloop and replace the functionality of 2 terminals and it would cost roughly twice as much.

It would also use much less land (no runways needed), and could terminate in the middle of a city a'la Grand central station.

You could move twice as many people, lots more freight, and at the same time spend less on energy, use less land, make less pollution, have less noise pollution, and be safer.

It's not quite as cut-and-dried as your out-of-context note would indicate.

Comment Fear not for your batteries! (Score 4, Informative) 218

How much does the battery cost to replace?

Or is the battery non-expendable?

This is what a special-interest framing argument looks like. It puts the question into the reader's mind, and without context (and noting that most readers don't take the time to think about things) it makes it seem like an insurmountable problem.

(Viz: "Ted Cruze's Canadian birth will be a problem for him, I'm just 'sayin".)

Tesla is addressing the battery issue directly, with a buy-back program.

Also note that Lithium batteries have an exponential usage lifetime ('sorta), which means that once you've depleted your battery to 90% of it's capacity, it'll stay at that level for a long time.

Also also note that a battery which is taken out of service will still have 85% of it's charge capacity for a really long time, and there are a lot of uses for such storage. A factory building filled with old Tesla batteries could help smooth out electrical grid demand - supplying power during peak times, and recharging at night.

(Put that building full of batteries next to a wind farm, or inside the industrial area of a large city.)

Again, the batteries will keep 85% of their capacity for a long time, and if the application doesn't care much about space or weight, this makes a good use for older batteries.

Also, no one has even begun thinking about recycling the batteries. Ten years from now we might start thinking about reforming batteries, and making removable/reusable cases with the option to recycle the lithium inside. Like we now do with lead.

And finally, all of this information is just a click away using this neat new service called "Google".

Implanting doubts, uncertainty, and fear in the minds of readers is so much harder nowadays.

Comment Some security observations (Score 4, Interesting) 117

Making some observations from recent events, I've noticed:

1) You can order a computer, and the delivery can be intercepted so that spyware can be installed. Especially laptops, which are difficult for the end user to peek inside.

2) The Intel management engine is essentially an attached microprocessor with complete and total remote control of your system, including access to all peripherals, the network, the disk data, and the ability to wake up and run while the main computer is off.

3) The Intel built-in programmable number generator was built in a way to be unverifiable. Essentially, the system reads physically generated random data and puts it through a hashing algorithm before giving it to the user. If the random number generator section is damaged (say, if someone modified the chip mask films before fab), you will get much less than the advertized 256-bits of entropy, but because the data is hashed there is no way to tell.

Buy American!

Comment Six degrees = 50 acquaintances (Score 1) 89

Six degrees of separation is the, already well established, idea that any individual is connected to any other via six network nodes.

How is it "well established"? As far as I can see "six degrees" was never meant to be taken as much of a concrete fact; it's more of an allegory for our counter-intuitively connected world. There are still plenty of remote or even completely uncontacted tribes in the world, and those are just the extreme examples. At best, six is a very rough average.

PS My Bacon number is 3.

Suppose every person on the planet knows 50 people. This would include all your relatives, the people you meet at work, in your community, at the gym and so on.

If each of those people know 50 people with no overlap, then 2 degrees out is 2500.

Taking this to the 6th order, 50^6 is around 15 billion people.

So although the number "6" seems counter-intuitively small, it's realistic. Even though there are tribes that *might* be 7 or 8 degrees out from you, they are in the tiny minority and don't affect the average much.

Also, there have been experiments where one researcher tried to get a package hand-delivered to another researcher somewhere else on the globe, with instructions of "hand this to someone you know who's physically closer to $SaidPerson.

Surprisingly, it usually took fewer than 6 hops to get there.

Comment Sad in a philosophical sense (Score 4, Insightful) 113

The really sad thing here is that it is likely that all of the original Apollo astronauts will be dead before anyone else goes to any non-Earth body.

While I agree that this is sad in a philosophical sense, we should also consider that while we haven't sent people to a non-Earth body, we *have*:

1) Landed on a comet
2) Got up-close-and-personal images of Pluto
3) Also Charon
4) Discovered over 5000 exoplanets
5) Send a probe out of the solar system (*)
6) Maintained a manned space station for the last 18 years
7) Sent several robots wandering around mars and taking pictures
8) (And occasionally vaporizing the miniature martian town centers with its "heat ray")

And a bunch of other things, such as mapping the CMB, finding strong evidence for dark matter, imaged an exoplanet, gotten spectrometer readings of the atmosphere in an exoplanet, found an asteroid with rings, and many minor things.

I'm not sure what the utility of sending a human into space is at the present time. Unless there's an obvious use case, it *seems* like the extra effort of sending a human isn't worth the risk, except as a political statement.

Oh, and we're seriously considering mining asteroids. How cool is that?

(*) Depending on the definition of the boundary, and the current definition is "cloudy" at that point, so that the probe seems to be going into and out of the boundary that defines the solar system edge.

Comment Is this worth my time? (Score 0) 71

You don't notice them when returns are 12 percent, but when the market is crawling (like today) with 1-2 percent returns, you sure notice the fees that siphon off up to 1/4 of your earnings.


Yeah, it's terrible because the fees are comparatively large when the market isn't doing good.

But, it's really *great* when the returns are 12 percent, ya know?

What's the overall return? Is it really worth my time to figure out the financials?

My Fidelity account manager mentioned that my account had a growth of 7% over its lifetime.

Should I really take the time to figure this stuff out, try to beat that figure, worry about making the wrong move at the wrong time (and losing a lot), and try to compete with millisecond timing, insider trading, and PhD quants who do this as their day job? (And try to do this while reading slanted, biased, and conflicting market analyses that I see long after the insiders do.)

There's like 5 ways to get rich in this country (meaning: 5 categories, depending on how you slice the categories (*)) and stock market investing *isn't* one of them. The chance of success is very low, it falls in the same category as "win the lottery" or "discover a priceless antique at a yard sale".

Add to this the fact that accounting seems to be a mishmash of arbitrary rules with no real social value, and the whole thing seems to hold very little interest for me (viz: American tax code).

I mean, really. We're the smart people in the room - rather than try to siphon money from a rigged system, shouldn't we be discovering new science, building new devices, and having original ideas?

Is doing this worth my time?

(*) The two which are available to regular people are "start a business" and "commission sales", where the sales thing is for high-price commodities such as telecoms equipment or weapons systems.

Submission + - Free state project reaches goal of 20,000 signups. (

Okian Warrior writes: As a followup to our recent story,
at 11AM Tuesday, Free State Project president Carla Gericke announced the FSP had reached its goal of recruiting 20,000 participants.
The 20,000 mark is significant, because it ‘triggers the move’ – the mass migration of the Free State Project participants who have all agreed to move to New Hampshire within the next five years. So far, almost 2,000 have already relocated to the state.

Comment Behind the shield (Score 2) 35

On the right hand side of the title text, behind the thing that looks like a shield and the thing that looks like a dashpot connected to a screen door, is a link. It's there.

(On my terminal the link is actually behind those two icons. I'm sure the icons are useful for something, but I'm not exactly sure what. The icons also partially obscure the "from the whatchamacallit dept" text, and I'm not exactly sure what that's good for, either.)

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