Dazzling Knowledge

Monday, January 28, 2008

That Line Would Have Gone Over Like Gangbusters In The 2000 Campaign

Providing indisputable evidence that conservative white men are exactly seven-and-a-half years behind the rest of pop culture, I present you with "Extreme Caucasian Awkwardness," Mormon-style:

Seriously, was this the only thing Romney could think of to say to a crowd of young, black Americans?

"Mind drawing blank... so many Negroes... I wonder how many are non-voting felons?... think, Mitt, think!...wait, remember that non-offensive rap song you heard while flipping to Disney Radio in the car?... something about dogs... quickly, damn it, reference the chorus!... Romney, you're a genius."

No word yet on whether Romney sang Macarena to a group of Hispanic business merchants shortly afterward.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Oh Noes!

So much for that Thompson-Kucinich throwdown I hoped would destroy American politics as we know it.

Democrat Kucinich quits White House race [Yahoo! News]

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If you like baseball and think the government is crap ("Me! Me!"), then you might be interested in these links regarding the steroid controversy.

The first analyzes the whole problem from a variety of ways. It even includes a surprisingly convincing evidence that steroid use has minimal effect on power numbers, and that power numbers have not even gone up in the steroid era.
And there's this: "We first need to note that there is scarcely some runaway epidemic of usage. Current adolescent use rates for steroids are about 1.5% (bet you didn't know that) and dropping (bet you didn't know that, either). And those results are from multiple very large-scale scientific surveys."
The second is just a good argument from Radley Balko explaining that steroids in sports is no big deal, and certainly not the business of congress. "I’d submit it’s about paternalism and control. A few luddites and prudes have successfully induced a full-blown moral panic over a set of substances that for whatever reason have attracted the ire of the people who have made it their job to tell us what is and isn’t good for us."

It's worth a try

You bet I signed this petition.

The best but least popular way to help to poor of the world, particularly the "Bottom Billion," is freedom of migration:

Pritchett is the author of a powerful new book that catalogues the staggering gains to be had from a liberalized immigration regime. Let Their People Come (Center for Global Development) relates, simply and unrelentingly, the voluminous data on global migration. If the 30 affluent countries making up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were to allow just a 3 percent rise in the size of their labor forces through loosened immigration restrictions, claims a 2005 World Bank report, the gains to citizens of poor countries would amount to about $300 billion. That’s $230 billion more than the developed world currently allocates to foreign aid for poor countries. And foreign aid is a transfer: The $70 billion that rich countries give leaves those countries $70 billion poorer. According to the World Bank study, wealthy nations that let in 3 percent more workers would gain $51 billion by boosting returns to capital and reducing the cost of production.

The aggregate gains from a regime of completely open borders are so large as to seem unreal, but immigration policy is perhaps best understood at the level of the individual. According to World Bank economists Martin Rama and Raquel Artecona, data from the 1990s show that a Vietnamese laborer who moves to Japan will make nine times what she would at home, adjusted for purchasing power. A Guatemalan will find wages for the same work increase sixfold in the United States; a Kenyan who moves to the U.K., sevenfold. “These wage gaps create pressure for migration,” Pritchett writes, “because they are not primarily explained by differences in the characteristics of people. Wage rates are predominantly characteristics of places.” The biggest single determinant of how well off you will be is not the college you get into, the color of your skin, your gender, or your work ethic; it’s the country listed on your passport.

Reason's Kerry Howley interviews Pritchett here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Education Joke

Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred-year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls--every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. "This is a school," he declares. "We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are green."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No Balloons for You!

Enthusiasts of high-pitched voice gags, take note: The world is running out of helium. Really.

The element that lifts things like balloons, spirits and voice ranges is being depleted so rapidly in the world’s largest reserve, outside of Amarillo, Tex., that supplies are expected to be depleted there within the next eight years.

This deflates more than the Goodyear blimp and party favors. Its larger impact is on science and technology, according to Lee Sobotka, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and physics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Helium is non-renewable and irreplaceable. Its properties are unique and unlike hydrocarbon fuels (natural gas or oil), there are no biosynthetic ways to make an alternative to helium. All should make better efforts to recycle it.“

The helium we have on earth has been built up over billions of years from the decay of natural uranium and thorium. The decay of these elements proceeds at a super-snail’s pace. For example, one of the most important isotopes for helium production is uranium-238. In the entire life span of the earth only half of the uranium-238 atoms have decayed — yielding eight helium atoms per uranium atom in the process) and an inconsequential fraction decay in, say , 1, 000 years. As the uranium and thorium decay, some of the helium is trapped alongwith natural gas deposits in certain geological formations. Some of the produced helium seeps out of the Earth’s mantle and drifts into the atmosphere, where there is approximately five parts per million of helium. However ,this helium, as well as any helium ultimately released into the atmosphere by users, drifts up and is eventually lost to the earth.

Whole article here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep

When I first saw this article I thought, "Yeah, it's called cocaine."

In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded
scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness.
A nasal
spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed
the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like
well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery's first application will
probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.

The best take on this was at Isegoria, where Matt remarked that he'd "like to perform like a well-rested monkey."