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Comment Re:Good. (Score 4, Insightful) 129

Yeah, probably not, at least not in any predictable way. There are a million things that popular opinion and unrest within China make more likely to be reformed: the Hukou system, land distribution, criminal justice, etc. Single party rule and stringent censorship just don't motivate the Chinese like westerners constantly tell them that it should. I'm of the opinion all of this is a tremendous waste, but I don't expect any majority of the Chinese public to agree with me any time soon.

Comment Pretty Conventional (Score 5, Informative) 129

Ratcheting up Internet restrictions is the norm during times like this. Expect VPN's in-country to also be strangely slower.

What's interesting to me are the new unconventional methods of restraint China always seems to be a pioneer in. It seems protesters throwing leaflets out of taxi cabs is a growing fear, so taxis are restricted in being able to travel around Tiananmen and will their windows locked, with some having control handles removed altogether.

I was present in China during the Arab Spring, when it was feared protest would spread. Any mention of a meetup place for protesters would all of a sudden shoot up the priority list for construction repairs. Many areas were cordoned off with armadas of street sweet sweepers.

Paranoia is an extremely inefficient use of ingenuity.

Comment Re:Supply and demand (Score 2) 458

The interesting thing about this whole episode is that, despite no obvious interventions by the state, the market itself failed to raise prices to clear the market.

In shortages like this, the logistics of gasoline make it difficult to really up capacity even by significant price raises. The gasoline market is highly segmented. It's not very easy to divert supplies from elsewhere and ship gasoline in the quantities needed, unlike with things like food and water.

What "price gouging" can do, however, is eliminate hoarding and frivolous use. $8.00 a gallon really makes you think twice whether you need that generator running 24 hours a day. That can help to calm down the shortage.

The puzzling thing is that gas stations seem to be much to afraid of being seen reaping a windfall profit by raising prices. So instead, we get lines miles long, essentially a gasoline lottery.

Comment Re:Math (Score 2, Insightful) 576

; but the chances of the poll averages being wrong in this case were incredibly small.

I'm not sure that's exactly knowable. Sure, the numbers are way better than contradictory pundit guts, but for instance, we had no way of knowing if a "Bradley Effect" would have been in play. Response rates for polling firms consistently came in below 10%. Polling is getting harder and harder in an age where fewer people have landlines and polling cell phones is restricted. As of now, state polls are good guides. They will be right up until they aren't, and then the science will change.

I'm not saying that the probability of systematic error is large, just unknowable. It was a perfectly reasonable and scientific position for a Republican to say "Romney's chances are equal to the probability of error in the polls, and I hope that probability is large."

Comment Re:But when? (Score 1) 576

Exactly. Neither Nate nor any of the many other poll aggregators (Sam Wang, Drew Linzer, etc.) have found any way to conquer the inherit unpredictability of political events far into the future. Read Daniel Kahnemann. Experts, no matter how "scientific" their methods are consistently wrong and worse at predicting politics far into the future than the proverbial dart throwing monkey.

We care about Nate Silver and people that do what he does for two reasons: 1) They definitively point out that most pundits are full of crap and unwilling to realize that polling, not their guts, describe what's happening in the short run in the most accurate way currently possible. 2) For partisan reasons. Democrats love Silver because his numbers provided a security blanket to liberals afraid for Obama. To be fair, had the election turned out different and Nate's numbers called it for Romney, Republicans would be lionizing him as well, and we'd all be mocking whatever the Democratic version of "Unskewed Polls" had been. That popular media figures skew left really helps Silver's celebrity this time around.

Comment Re:Wiggle room indeed (Score 4, Interesting) 145

I'm no geologist, but I have learned a bit of stats.

In Oklahoma, the rate of M >= 3 events abruptly increased in 2009 from 1.2/year in the previous half-century to over 25/year. This rate increase is exclusive of the November 2011 M 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks.

A twenty-five-fold increase, that excludes the largest outlying event, in the number of earthquakes would seem to be statistically significant of something.

Comment Re:Oh Great. (Score 4, Interesting) 145

Putting aside the possible implication that you think science should censor politically unsavory findings and renege on its mission, this won't be like other warnings from scientists. Climate is a big impersonal force that's hard to grasp. It unfolds slowly and is hard to really "experience" first hand. A tripling of the number of earthquakes in the midwest is, shall we say, slightly more visceral.

Comment Re:Can it prevent large earthquakes? (Score 1, Interesting) 145

I'm generally in favor exploring geo-engineering. Since, does anyone really expect to get China and India(the greatest sources of future emissions) to postpone carbon intensive growth through treaties? Inducing earthquakes seems much more dangerous than any scheme that involves adding reflective particles to the atmosphere. Engineering the atmosphere, as tough and uncertain as that is, is made easier by the fact that gases introduced to the upper atmosphere will fade in effect on a reasonable time scale and the faucet can be turned at off at any time. Fracturing the crust is much more permanent. It could be earthquakes now, but magma popping up in the middle of Cleveland later. There's no way to put the rock back together.

Comment Pie in the sky (Score 4, Insightful) 123

Cutting up a cake might not sound like an important problem but if you rephrase it as sharing resources or territory, then you can quickly see that it has lots of practical applications.

This seems like a pretty interesting game, fit for nerd parties and the like. Solving territorial or resource disputes? Not so much. You and your friends are basically equal. State actors, ethnic groups, etc. tend not to be perfectly equal. For example, I doubt the Sunni insurgency in Iraq would have submitted to such an auction. The same goes for the actors in the South China Sea, Israel Palestine, really any territorial dispute of note.

I could see something like this being useful for divvying things like mineral resources that crop in international waters, like all those manganese nodes on the ocean floor.

Submission + - Using Radio Waves to Bake Tumors (phys.org)

explosivejared writes: "From the article:

Nanothermal therapy – the use of nanoparticles to cook a tumor to death – is one of the many promising uses of nanotechnology to both improve the effectiveness of cancer therapy and reduce its side effects. Now, a team of investigators from the Texas Center for Cancer Nanomedicine has shown that liver cancer cells will take up targeted gold nanoparticles, absorb radio waves, and generate heat that damages the cells. In addition, the researchers have discovered how to increase the thermal toxicity of these nanoparticles."

Comment Re:Taxes and trade are complicated (Score 1) 175

... despite the fact that in my grandfather's day only the rich paid federal income tax.

Your grandfather must have lived in the roaring twenties then. Through most of the middle of the 20th century that wasn't the case, but, surprisingly, income taxes are more generous to the bottom quintile. The income tax rate in America has gotten more and more progressive over the last few decades with the introduction of the EITC, as the bottom quintile receives more and more money

Comment Re:Taxes and trade are complicated (Score 1) 175

Well, if indeed it is legal, then there's nothing wrong with it.

The article says that the UK government is investigating, but if Amazon is found to owe these taxes, it would be a matter for the European courts to decide. I have a feeling this is sort of a novel issue. Obviously I'd have to defer to someone that had the relevant case law or EU regulation handy. Either way, this is not something the UK just gets to declare legal or not.

Comment Taxes and trade are complicated (Score 5, Insightful) 175

It would be really difficult to structure a tax with the incidence falling solely on setups like the one Amazon has here, especially since the UK is part of the single market. This is most likely an issue that would have to be solved in the European Courts rather than by the UK government. I doubt that a few hundred million pounds in lost tax revenue would persuade the courts to force a major restructuring of trade. I am not expert on European jurisprudence though.

This is a legitimately complex issue of tax avoidance. Most of the time when people howl about corporations paying low effective tax rates it's because they don't realize all of the exemptions for favored industries (green and bio tech, aerospace, etc.) and absorbing losses create that outcome. Here we have a government stretched thin on revenues up against the framework of European economic integration.

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