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Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 4, Insightful) 227

by swillden (#49762097) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

That assumes that the business can raise prices without consequence, which is an invalid assumption.

Only if the competition can avoid the taxes. If all of the players in the market get hit with the same taxes, then all of them absolutely can and will raise prices, and there will be no consequences.

Taxes are a percentage of profits, and are not deductible from revenue when calculating profits. So if Amazon raises their prices (and, assuming no change in consumer behavior, their revenue) by 10%, they also increase the amount of taxes they owe by 10%. So now they have to raise their prices again to cover the additional tax, lather rinse repeat.

This is a standard financial calculation, and a trivial one. The tax is 10%, so the increase is 10%, but there's 10% tax on that, so 1%, meaning the increase needs to be 11%, continue ad infinitum (literally). In other words, the new price needs to be 11.1111...% higher than the old one to keep profit margins unchanged. More generally, the increase needs to be the sum of the infinite series with terms r^n. This series is convergent if r < 1, and converges to 1/(1-r). So for a 25% tax, the company needs to increase prices by 1-1/(1-.25) = 33.333...% to keep profit margins unchanged after accounting for the new tax.

Of course, it doesn't quite happen like that. In practice, companies don't instantly raise prices. They do take the hit for a while, where it gets absorbed by the investors, not the customers. Then they allocate a portion of the losses to employees, in the form of reduced raises, or benefits. Then they raise prices. But eventually they get back to a steady state of roughly the same return on assets that they had before the tax hike.

Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 5, Insightful) 227

by swillden (#49762053) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Specifically, all corporate taxes paid come from three categories of individuals: consumers, who pay higher prices for items to cover the taxes; employees, who make lower wages to cover the taxes; and shareholders, who earn lower returns (and note that the two former categories are often also shareholders, via their pension plans). Suppliers can also lose, but they're generally corporations as well, with their own employees and investors who actually eat the loss. In the long run, though, the investors don't lose because capital flows away from lower returns and towards higher ones. So companies must find ways to keep their returns up to somewhere near the mean rate of return.

Once you understand that no taxes are paid by corporations, ever, then you should also recognize that corporate taxes are not only ultimately paid by individuals, but the individuals almost never realize they're paying it. How many people know their prices would be lower, wages higher, or pension more secure, if it weren't for corporate taxes? And, therefore, how many voters have any interest in opposing corporate taxation? To politicians and voters, corporate taxes look almost like free money. Ratchet up the corporate taxes and no people get hurt, just those nasty corporations. (Actually, politicians sometimes get even more value out of threatening corporate taxes than enacting them, since it tends to encourage said corporations to buy off, er, donate to their re-election funds.)

I assert that while taxes are necessary, the electorate should see and understand exactly what they're paying, so they can evaluate the value they're receiving for the money they're paying. Hidden taxes are evil, and therefore corporate taxes are evil, and should be abolished, not raised.

Comment: Re:Thai music is heptatonic (Score 1) 59

by rwa2 (#49759233) Attached to: Favorite musical scale, by number of pitch classes?

ha, yeah, I suppose I /still/ have no idea :P

What I meant is while western music scales mathematically divide the octave into 8 intervals (12 including the black keys), Thai instruments divide their "octave" into 7, which is part of the reason why Thai and other asian music sounds... exotic to westerners.

Here's someone who knows what he's talking about...

Also a herpetonic scale sounds cool because imagine a bunch of shiny lizards playing in an orchestra

Comment: Re:Meh... (Score 1) 242

by jandersen (#49757195) Attached to: California Votes To Ban Microbeads

I can't imagine it is really a big water treatment issue since they have a different density than water and you could separate them with settling tanks and skimmers.

Separating really small objects of almost the same density as water (0.91â"0.96 g/cm3 - they are made from polyethylene) is not easy, and the fact is that they pass through all existing water treatment works. Plastics are in fact a serious environmental issue, 1) since they often leak hormone-like chemicals, and 2) because plastic objects are mostly not broken down into their chemical constituents, but instead break up to form very small plastic splinters and fibres. These are now found everywhere in our food chain; certainly in anything that starts life at sea: fish etc. We still don't quite know what harm they cause - the great worry is that thei will turn out to be as harmful as asbestos. Is it a good idea to allow the industry to pump these largely unnecessary products out, when it seems likely that it will cause massive problems for society down the line? Health problems cost society money, not just in form of hospitals, doctors etc, but also in lost productivity - prevention is better than cure, and it is also better for business in the long run.

And I don't see it matters for industry really because they'll just go back to using what they were using before which is mostly - sand.

You use this stuff as an abrasive and maybe the microbeads are mildly less abrasive? I don't know... anyway, they'll just replace this with very fine sand.

Sand is a natural material, and the environment already knows how to deal with it. I don't know exactly why they prefer to use plastic, but I'll bet it has to do with thei short term profit. Maybe it is a selling point, or was - I remember when it was first introduced and you suddenly heard a lot about how harsh the old kind of toothpaste was to your teeth. In reality it is probably no more than a selling point, like the current craze for putting triclosan in everything - which doesn't actually kill bacteria, but is likely to harm our health in the long run (both directly and by breeding resistent bacteria; when will we bother to learn?)

Comment: The good ol' days (Score 4, Interesting) 376

by jandersen (#49757093) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

25 years, you say? It feels longer, somehow. Don't worry, I can see everybody's eyes glaze over, so I won't go too far down memory lane, except to say that there was actually a time when when Windows was cool and fun to work with. By gods, it was a load of crap, back then, but fun to code for, for that very reason. I used to spend 90% of my time commenting out code sections until the latest, spectacular error went away; that was how I learned to program properly in C. There is nothing like having to debug Windows running in real mode to bring home the idea that you must always initialise variable and check returned pointers. I sometimes miss the "hardship" in a perverse sort of way.

Comment: Re:Pot, meet kettle (Score 1) 227

by swillden (#49756299) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

Global warming is a sloooooooooooooooooow process

Not necessarily. Greenland ice core records show that in the past the planet has seen temperature shifts of up to 7 C in as little as 30 years. 7 C is huge. It's like transporting Moscow to Rome. Of course, we have no idea what caused such rapid changes in the past. It wasn't CO2 levels, or particulates.

Comment: Re:Math (Score 1) 227

by swillden (#49756245) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

i would not be surprised if humans died off within a couple centuries after that.

I would. If one or more isolated populations managed to survive more than a couple of generations after the event, I think it's highly likely that they'd continue to survive indefinitely. The worst of the changes would be past, and they'd clearly have learned how to survive in the new environment, else they'd have died sooner.

Human intelligence makes us highly adaptable, as evidenced by the extraordinary diversity of environments in which we live, and lived even before the advent of modern technology. Humans who lack the necessary knowledge of how to survive in a particular environment are at severe risk of death any place on the planet, but if they manage to survive for even a year or two, odds are that they'll have learned enough to be able to extend that time almost indefinitely.

Comment: cheap BLU phones (Score 2) 302

by rwa2 (#49754693) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone?

I've been getting a bunch of BLU phones for the kids for about $20 - $30 a pop.

They're by no means nice phones, but they have a good feature set, and we haven't had any problems with them that weren't caused by dropping them into puddles or sending them on a ride through the laundry machine.

BLU also has a slightly larger one with a full Blackberry-like keyboard for texting that also has a broadcast TV receiver instead of just FM radio.

Comment: Re:Trolling? (Score 2) 227

by rwa2 (#49753437) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

Er, just trolling for mod points, and I guess I know my audience for the most part... I was really just looking for a nice place to link to that funny image, and your post sounded smart (though TBH I didn't really understand what position you were arguing for or against, but I agree with the statements you made).

But just to explain my AGW analogy... should we be worried about asteroids enough to spend money on asteroid interceptors, even though any kind of payoff is likely only once every 70,000 years or so? Should we be worried about climate change enough to spend money on trying to cram more people onto Earth, or just let the natural cycles of mass extinctions and famine run its course?

The fine article is somewhat silly, because first they complain about how bad at statistics people are, but then go through the math that the odds of anyone dying due to asteroids are 1 - in 70 million per year.

assuming our world’s population remains level at 7 billion indefinitely into the future

which is
1. a bit ridiculous that the population will hold steady at 7 billion the forseeable future, not that it matters because humans have difficulty relating to any population above a couple hundred.
2. over enough millennia, even with those odds, we'll see definitely see something. Probably not in our lifetimes, but likely on a civilization scale of 10,000 years.
3. Yes, TFA mentions that most of the solar system debris has already been absorbed by Jupiter and the like, but seems to ignore some other million-year scale cycles for encountering space debris

Are people fear-mongering? Definitely. Is any effort we make to tackle the miniscule risk of asteroid impacts or climate change wasted? No. Are historians in the distant future going to look back on our culture and and say "silly fools, they wasted so much time and effort worrying about X that they didn't notice the real issues piling up to destroy their civilization" no matter what we do? Hell yes.

+ - Coral islands defy sea level rise

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: Despite having some of the highest rates of sea level rise in the past century, the 29 islands of Funafuti Atoll in the Pacific show no signs of sinking.

Despite the magnitude of this rise, no islands have been lost, the majority have enlarged, and there has been a 7.3% increase in net island area over the past century (A.D. 1897-2013). There is no evidence of heightened erosion over the past half-century as sea-level rise accelerated. Reef islands in Funafuti continually adjust their size, shape, and position in response to variations in boundary conditions, including storms, sediment supply, as well as sea level.

Be aware as well that the cause of the rise in sea level here is not clearly understood. It could be the global warming we have seen since the end of the Little Ice Age of the 1600s, or other more complex factors.

Comment: Re:Mostly wrong (Score 3, Insightful) 227

by rwa2 (#49752245) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

Yeah, large, mass-extinction asteroids are only a problem every 70 million years.

By that logic, why even bother worrying about AGW, since even by the worst predictions it won't have any horrible effects for the next 100 years or so. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy life! .... there's nothing that could possibly happen that Earth wouldn't completely recover from in a couple million years.

Comment: Re:Sudden? (Score 4, Interesting) 263

by rwa2 (#49751577) Attached to: ESA Satellite Shows Sudden Ice Loss In Southern Antarctic Peninsula

Politics are not Pro- or Anti-Science. It is weather the science is political useful for them or not. Otherwise they will be happy putting their head in the sand.

This. If you know anything about lawyers and law, the first tenet is NEVER ADMIT FAULT. No good can come of it. People might then expect you to pay for damages or whatever.

Environmentalists make the mistake thinking that conservatives are stupid. That is not the case. The only thing they care about is that they will not have to pay for or be part of the solution. Any time you spend trying to convince them otherwise is wasted.

The other bit is that politics is never proactive, always reactionary. No environmental protection or anti-pollution law was ever passed until something was already FUBAR, be it due to the London yellow fog, or smog over LA, holes in the ozone layer, or Chinese urban centers shutting down due to respiratory issues. The politicians will maybe finally get around to doing something substantial about AGW after there's a refugee crises from low-lying areas, like the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Louisiana, Florida, etc. Chances are, they still won't blame AGW, since it'll be sea swell from a hurricane/typhoon that does those population centers in, but at some point they'll get tired of throwing money at those places to rebuild. Fortunately there are already a lot of migrant refugee boats in the Mediterranean and Andaman Sea for other reasons, so we're already slowly building a framework for dealing with these kinds of things.

MATH AND ALCOHOL DON'T MIX! Please, don't drink and derive. Mathematicians Against Drunk Deriving