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Comment A good experiment, if it works. (Score 1) 460

I have a simple metric for seeing if a political idea has merit. I look around the world and find places where it is being used and see how it is working out. By that metric, the USA's government is doing fairly well, but someone else does most individual tasks better somewhere else. Nobody is a lot better, which is why the USA is a good place to live. I can't find any real Libertarian counties or states, much less successful ones. If the "Free State" project succeeds, they may prove something. Based on the lack of success with these ideas elsewhere, it is likely to prove that this is a bad idea. That could be worthwhile as long as not too many people get hurt in the meantime and people remember the lessons learned. Of course, avid fans tend to ignore failures and attribute it to a lack of purity and other problems, not a failure of the core ideas to work in a real human society.

Comment Master key (Score 5, Insightful) 102

Who would buy a lock from a company that made a master key that was good in all of their locks? Of course, they would promise to only release that key to authorized people. However, it is certain that eventually it will get into criminal hands. At that point, there is lots of money to be made from selling the key. Of course, lock companies could make lots of money off this proposal, but not the one who made the master key. The government might as well give up on a web based economy and go back to paper banking if they start giving out keys to all of the transactions.

Comment The article is more extreme than the summary (Score 1) 795

Agreed, the article overplays its conclusions, much in the way the press typically overplays the conclusions of every piece of science that is published. Science does come up with rules about how the world behaves through experiment. Then, those rules are used to actually make predictions. The whole point is that any of those predictions are valid. You could say that any of these predictions implies an experiment, and it does. However, we still use the predictions as if they are true until a prediction does fail. Generally, it is the press that misuses science. New science is all trial and error. Predictions are made and then tested. The press often publishes the hypothesis as if it has been validated. A potentially valid scientific theory is one that has made a prediction and the prediction has come true. If it repeatedly comes true, then the theory is considered to be a working theory of how things work. Economics and psychology both tend to deal with humans and are studying human designed systems. The rules for these systems are not written into stone, as we think the rules of physics are, but studying them can still lead to valid theories. They just have more limits, since it is hard to quantify where the theories are valid. An economic theory that works in one country may not apply in a different time or place where the society involved is different in some important way. The same is true of psychology studies. However, that is no different in any fundamental way than studying how fire and explosives work and then moving into a zero gravity environment and finding that the rules are different. The original work is valid and useful for making predictions. People rarely list all the assumptions needed to make any theory truly valid. Many are only discovered by finding counter examples and figuring out why the counter examples occur.

Comment Re:Police Ssurveillance (Score 1) 761

The difference is the old question of when a difference of quantity makes a difference in quality. A lot of public records used to be very hard to get, just because they were on paper and someone needed to go to a particular place to request them. Now, much of this information is in searchable databases, making it widely available. It used to take a team of cops to track a suspect. That takes a lot of money, meaning it is rarely done in practice. With a GPS device, the same money used to track one suspect, can now track hundreds of people. The problem is the same. It used to be that your location was public, but fairly hard for anyone to track. Now, it is possible to do it cheaply. The same question is coming with the use of automated license plate readers, which allow the police to record the location of every car that they pass. Combining that with red light cameras and other surveillance cameras, the police may not need GPS trackers much longer. They may be able to build a huge database that can effectively track nearly everyone. Again, they used to be able to do this by manually entering a license plate into a computer and looking it up. With the new technology, they can expand that to cover almost everyone.

Comment Re:Plenty of funds going around on both sides (Score 1) 715

Looking at the financial interests of the plays is definitely a good way to judge whether or not you need to be skeptical.

There is certainly a lot of money involved in avoiding global warming. Many new technologies are needed and a lot of new infrastructure.

However, the actual scientists who are studying global warming have no financial motive that I can see. They are not collecting the money from cap and trade or even from the new technologies. Their direct financial interest is actually in controversy. If global warming might be a big deal, more research is needed. This is great for the researchers. Actually saying that there is enough data to reach a sound conclusion could hurt the researchers. Now we can put the money into researching technology rather than climate. I don't think many of the scientist involved will collect much money from that.

On the other hand, you have players, such as oil and gas companies and the scientists from countries that are major producers of these resources who predominate the critical scientists. It is easy to see how these countries and companies would like to provide money to anyone who can cast doubt on the issue.

It must be quite a far sited policy (not something the US specializes in) to pay researchers to come up with conclusions that might allow them to raise taxes through a back door (cap and trade). It is either that, or companies (most of which don't exist yet), who are funding research into climate change, just so that the governments of various nations will all get together and end up in creating business for these companies. None of these options seems plausible to me. This is especially unlikely since the Bush administration was in power for most of the period when the current consensus was developed.

A more likely conclusion is: The same thing is happening with global warming as with smoking. You have lots of companies, countries, and individuals who benefit from burning fossil fuels. You also have a lot of people who enjoy the way that they live right now and do not want to be told that they are doing something that is bad (for themselves with smoking or for other people). It is easy to have those who stand to be hurt by any changes in the current system pore a lot of resources into fighting change.

Comment It is possible, but not certain (Score 5, Insightful) 110

The article notes that the ratio of the nitrogen isotopes matches what is in the earths atmosphere. It seems to me, that just makes it possible that the comets are a significant source of the nitrogen on Earth. It is also possible that the nitrogen in the comets and in the atmosphere came from a common source.

Comment Re:Do we really need GPS to track mileage ? (Score 1) 891

If we are looking for a tax to pay for the roads, the real cost is based on both the vehicle weight and the distance traveled. A fair way of paying for the roads is to take both of these into account. In the modern world, the gas tax does that fairly well, since gas usage is based on both factors. In the short run, the gas tax is also a great way to encourage "greener" cars. The article is talking about 2020. The GPS is only really useful to make all roads into toll roads. You can charge people for exactly the roads they drive on and even add congestion charges to encourage driving at off peak hours. However, if the objective is just to pay for the roads that we have and replace the gas tax, using the odometer and the size of the car, people could pay for the use of their car periodically. If people want to be able to charge by state, then license plate recognition technology can already be used to do that. The states can track which cars enter the state and charge them something for the privilege of driving on the roads. That sort of approach seems to be a lot less prone to privacy concerns than tracking the actual roads driven and the actual times the roads are driven on. It also works fine for older cars. odometer readings can be collected in a lot of states when the car is inspected or when it changes hands and is re-registered. It makes it so people are paying a big lump sum periodically rather than a smaller monthly bill. However, there are plenty of ways to spread out the payments so that people do not get hit will too big of a charge up front.

Comment Re:We known this for a long time (Score 1) 344

In order for us to be in a void that affected how distant supernovas appear, it seems the void would need to be large enough to encompass many galaxies. Otherwise, we would see all supernovas as uniformly more distant. If the gravitational effect is primarily an edge effect, then we do not need to be in the exact center to see a uniform effect. However, if someone is looking for the effect, it seems that they should be able to find where the boundary is with enough data.

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