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Comment Not really necessary in the US (Score 2) 70

The US is awash in privately funded technology R&D toward exascale computing. While there is government funding, it is somewhat superfluous to the extent that US has a huge, well-funded private sector obsessed with massively scaling just about everything vaguely related to computing. That whole Internet-scale computing thing.

The US is hardly disadvantaged by the government not spending money on exascale computing. The US government does not need to compensate for the absence of private investment.

Comment "video games and special effects"? (Score 4, Insightful) 292

Say what? Is this what average people think programmers and software engineers do? Do they think the kids won't catch on that the reality does not look anything like that?

I have nothing against programming as a part of standard education. It is likely beneficial on multiple levels, not just because it teaches a useful skill but because it forces you to reason about and analyze systems in a somewhat rigorous way.

My issue is that they are apparently faking the real rewards at a very superficial level which generates little value in practice. You won't train a generation of great computer scientists by doing a bait and switch, and history suggests that really great computer scientists are rarely motivated by their ability to do parlor tricks for the adoring masses. Like with many other technical disciplines, the deep elegance that makes it rewarding requires long and serious study that most of society will never really appreciate except in a very indirect way.

Comment Re:Wow (Score 4, Informative) 202

Because we don't get earthquakes in this part of the world. Ever.

Not according to the USGS seismic hazard maps. Unlike most other states, Oklahoma even has a separate map dedicated to that state. See:

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/hazards/products/conterminous/2008/maps/

There are many states that are prone to periodic earthquakes. This includes many states that most people just assume do not have earthquakes because they are infrequent. I would be hesitant to assume attribution to a fracking that which can be adequately explained by previously known geological science.

Comment Re:When Mitt Romney asks, "Why punish success?"... (Score 2) 436

Among the many reasons long-term capital gains taxes are lower than income taxes is that they are not indexed for inflation over a potentially very long term. If you buy an asset for $250,000 and sell it ten years later for $300,000 then you lost money after adjusting for inflation. Nonetheless, you still have to pay capital gains taxes on the nominal gain of $50,000. You pay taxes on a real loss.

Long-term capital gains have to be much lower than income taxes or no sane investor would make long-term investments. The average rate of return required on risk capital just to break even would be so high that otherwise viable ventures would no longer be viable. Even if you do not understand the return on investment calculus for long-term investment, rest assured that most investors do and will handle their money accordingly.

It is ironic that many of the people that assert most investors are only interested in short-term profits actively campaign to eliminate all possibility of profit on long-term investment. They create the thing they detest. As a more practical matter, long-term capital gains are frequently recaptured as income taxes within two years, after being put to productive use, so there is little lost in minimizing taxes on long-term capital gains in any case. Short-term capital gains -- capital gains with the properties of income -- are already taxed at income rates.

Comment Re:This is bullshit. (Score 2) 331

Can anyone provide any kind of source, one way or the other, saying that HFT is necessary, or good, or terribly evil? I'd like to hear what actual economists think of it, rather than just laymen.

The empirical impact of HFTs on market behavior and non-HFT traders has been studied, the following paper for example:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1641387

From the abstract: "These findings suggest that HFTs' activities are not detrimental to non-HFTs and that HFT tends to improve market quality."

This is in line with the findings of most serious studies. The intuitions of most laymen fail them because they do not understand market dynamics.

Comment Mary Schapiro and Madoff (Score 3, Interesting) 148

One of the questions raised when Obama appointed Mary Schapiro to run the SEC was the fact that she was the party responsible for minimizing oversight, actively ignoring whistleblowers, in the Madoff case. While the media was disinterested in her appointment to head the SEC it raised some eyebrows in the financial community given that she was largely responsible for the non-investigation of Madoff in her previous roles.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the current SEC has significant self-interest in destroying the paper trail in the Madoff case. From outward appearances it reflects gross incompetence on the current head of the SEC in the best case and many would raise the specter of malfeasance.

Comment Re:Medicare bigger than DoD, Social Security close (Score 1) 395

Much as the politicians would have you think so, Social Security isn't part of "the budget". It's a separate revenue stream.

Look at the numbers on your check stub sometimes. That's whey they call it "entitlement" - you're entitled to get yours back.

There is no entitlement to Social Security or "to get yours back". See: US Supreme Court case Flemming v. Nestor (1960).

Regardless of how it is sold to the masses, if you strip away the political theater and posturing your Social Security payments are essentially a welfare tax that can be redistributed as the government sees fit at any particular time. The government has no obligation pay a person Social Security no matter how much they have paid in.

Comment The Malaysian remake of Blade Runner (Score 4, Funny) 140

We know how this ends, a group of genetically enhanced mosquitos will break into the Malaysian laboratory leaving a trail of bodies while being pursued by Rick "The Flyswatter" Deckard.

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... sweaty white skin on the shoulder of a tourist... I watched bug lights glitter in the darkness at the Tannhauser Gate..."

Comment It appears to be biased toward big words (Score 1) 266

If you look at the rankings of nutter pseudo-science sites and fringe political babble, they are strongly correlated with a high "reading level". I can't imagine that it is because of the content -- the content is insane -- but because people on these sites often use big-word babble when elaborating on their delusions. They may be using fluffy prose, but there is no "there" there.

Consequently, I would take the reading level with a grain of salt.

Comment Re:The actual news in the article (Score 1) 221

Perhaps not to intercept the missiles, but to destroy US GPS satellites so the US missiles won't track.

The US does not use GPS guidance in its weapons. US weapon systems are based on ultra-precise inertial navigation that are not dependent on GPS. Some accept GPS corrections within the very small margin of error for inertial guidance but that does not really matter for most missiles since terminal guidance is optical or radar. At worst, loss of GPS would be an inconvenience for the military; they've known it was vulnerable since the Cold War when the Soviets had real anti-GPS capability. Civilians would be inconvenienced to a far greater extent because they actually do use GPS as a primary source.

The idea that the US has or has ever had GPS-guided weapon systems is a myth that just won't die.

Comment Re:The world is still interesting (Score 1) 312

As much as the economists like to assume that economics is a measurable science the ideas of perfect knowledge and perfect actors are laughable given the way we know people operate. The basic foundation of the economic theory is very broken.

All this really proves is that you do not understand neither theoretical economics nor the mathematics of prediction. It doesn't work the way you are assuming it works nor do economists make the assumptions you are assuming they make. They might make these assumptions to simplify it for a layperson like yourself but that is only because the real mathematics is neither easy nor intuitive for someone that does not care to spend the time to develop expertise. Popular science books are remarkably devoid of meaningful mathematics too.

I always marvel that people who will complain that the ill-educated masses reason their way to grotesquely inaccurate conclusions based on their limited "common sense" understanding of things like evolution and climate change do not see the problem with loudly exhibiting the same behavior on topics like economics or some other pet bogeyman they don't understand. This is no less provincial than being a creationist, though perhaps more socially acceptable.

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What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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