Shared posts

31 Mar 15:35

The University of North Carolina "student-athlete" academic scandal

by Minnesotastan

This week the U.S. is in the throes of its annual "March Madness" collegiate basketball mania, so it seems to be an appropriate time to provide some links about the recent scandal at the University of North Carolina.

Mary Willingham, a Learning Specialist teaching remedial skills at UNC's Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, commented publicly on the abysmal educational skills of athletes enrolled at the school, most of whom had reading skills of grade-school children, some of them at a third-grade level and not having ever written a paragraph in their life.

The best video interview is this one from ESPN, for which I've been unable to find a embed code.  In it she reports her experience with literally illiterate college student-athletes who were unable to write.  They were enrolled in "paper classes" that didn't really exist (they just had to write a paper, not attend classes, and that help was given to them to write that paper).  The classes were typically in African-American Studies (AFAM).  She calls the situation a "scam," "a joke," that "everyone knew" and that the NCAA doesn't care about this.  The video is definitely worth a four-minute viewing.

Embedded at the top of this post is a screencap of a "final paper" she showed during the interview, one submitted by a student who received an A- for this work.

Here is a related video -

- which includes the essence but lacks the punch of the ESPN interview linked above.

For the past three years, Ms. Willingham has been anonymously providing information about this academic fraud to the News and Observer in Raleigh, resulting in articles like this.
Until August, the university had resisted going back further than 2007 to investigate other potential academic problems in the department, so it’s difficult to assess exactly what was happening before then.

Difficult, that is, except in the case of Julius Peppers, whose transcript sat unnoticed on UNC’s website until this summer. Peppers had D’s or F’s in 11 of 30 classes, the transcript showed, and was barely eligible for football and basketball only because of a string of better grades in courses he took in the AFAM Department.

Read more here:
Bloomberg Businessweek has an extended discussion.

It's worth emphasizing that this criticism does not apply to all colleges and certainly not to all student athletes.  The problem arises because of the rise of big money in collegiate sports.
25 Mar 15:00

AT&T to Netflix: if you don't bribe us to do our job, you're asking for a "free lunch"

by Cory Doctorow

AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of Legislative Affairs James Cicconi has written a monumentally stupid attack on Reed Hasting's call for Net Neutrality. Cicconi says, "there is no free lunch, and there’s also no cost-free delivery of streaming movies. Someone has to pay that cost. Mr. Hastings’ arrogant proposition is that everyone else should pay but Netflix."

What Cicconi ignores is that Netflix is paying its ISPs to be connected to the Internet. And AT&T's customers are paying to be connected to the Internet. And AT&T's customers are asking to havethe service they are paying for to be connected to the service Netflix is paying for. AT&T is then demanding that Netflix pay it a bribe in order to carry out the service that its customers are paying for.

If you're an AT&T customer paying for a 4MB/s DSL line, you have entered into a commercial arrangement whereby AT&T delivers you the bytes you ask for as quickly and efficiently as it can. You're not entering into an arrangement whereby AT&T can, if it notices that many of its customers really like a service, charge that service for the privilege of giving AT&T customers what they're already paying for.

Imagine if AT&T was a city-bus with an exclusive contract to serve your town, and it noticed that a lot of passengers were getting off at a certain stop every day to visit a restaurant. What AT&T is doing is saying "We will no longer stop near that restaurant unless it pays us a bribe," (and they're hinting, "We will stop at a competing restaurant if they do pay a bribe"). When the restaurant objects, AT&T says, "Hey, there's no such thing as a free lunch."

This isn't "just business" -- it's extortion.

When Netflix delivered its movies by mail, the cost of delivery was included in the price their customer paid. It would’ve been neither right nor legal for Netflix to demand a customer’s neighbors pay the cost of delivering his movie. Yet that’s effectively what Mr. Hastings is demanding here, and in rather self-righteous fashion. Netflix may now be using an Internet connection instead of the Postal Service, but the same principle applies. If there’s a cost of delivering Mr. Hastings’s movies at the quality level he desires – and there is – then it should be borne by Netflix and recovered in the price of its service. That’s how every other form of commerce works in our country. It’s simply not fair for Mr. Hastings to demand that ISPs provide him with zero delivery costs – at the high quality he demands – for free. Nor is it fair that other Internet users, who couldn’t care less about Netflix, be forced to subsidize the high costs and stresses its service places on all broadband networks.

As we all know, there is no free lunch, and there’s also no cost-free delivery of streaming movies. Someone has to pay that cost. Mr. Hastings’ arrogant proposition is that everyone else should pay but Netflix. That may be a nice deal if he can get it. But it’s not how the Internet, or telecommunication for that matter, has ever worked.

Who Should Pay for Netflix? [James Cicconi/AT&T Public Policy Blog]

(Image: AT&T Death Star, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from aaronpk's photostream)


26 Mar 16:19

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings

by Christopher Jobson

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

A World Where Outdoor Advertising is Replaced by Classical Paintings consumerism advertising

In this fun series of photos from the streets of Milan and Paris, artist Etienne Lavie imagines what the world might be like if invasive street advertisements were replaced with classical paintings. If instead of waiting for the bus next to a back-lit ad for a new car, you were given the opportunity to stare at Marco d’ Oggiono’s The Three Archangels. Lavie has shared very little about the tongue-in-cheek project titled “OMG who stole my ads?,” but art triumphing over consumerism in an urban utopia is pretty clear message. You can see much more of the series here. (via Colossal Submissions)

25 Mar 17:08

A Handy Flow Chart on How to Choose a Pet

25 Mar 05:05

d0penati0n: lightning strikes…


lightning strikes…

27 Mar 13:56

Why does this video game suck?

by PZ Myers

The normal explanation would be that the graphics are clumsy and out of date, the character animation is creepily unhuman, the plot is inane, and the preachy moralizing and weird evangelism is off-putting. But to the people at Phoenix Interactive, who are having a hard time getting funding for a game called Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham, those factors are not to be acknowledged. It’s because of SATAN.

"I need to be clear on this point: Are you telling me that Satan is literally working to confound your plans to release this game? You’re saying that the actual Devil is scheming against you?"

I’m sitting in a nondescript office in an unremarkable neighborhood in Bakersfield, CA, interviewing three men about their plans for a Biblical game based on the life of Abraham.

I believe that, 100 percent, replies Richard Gaeta, a co-founder of Phoenix Interactive. He argues that since the launch of the Kickstarter for Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham, trouble has come into all their lives.

It’s very tangible, adds his business partner Martin Bertram. From projects falling through and people that were lined up to help us make this a success falling through. Lots of factors raining down on us like fire and brimstone.

Nobody is winking or joking or pulling my leg. There is no irony here. They are absolutely serious.

It’s an interesting rationalization. None of their problems are their fault, it’s all the work of a malignant supernatural entity. But what I found particularly intriguing is the extent to which they’ve taken it: failure is a sign of their importance.

If Satan is rallying some of his resources to forestall, delay, or kill this project, I think, this must be a perceived threat to his kingdom, adds Ken Frech, a religious mentor to the project. I fully would expect something like this to have spiritual warfare. Look at the gospel accounts of demons and so forth. That’s reality. Many Americans don’t believe it anymore. That doesn’t change reality.

Since I’m a nice guy, and very sympathetic, I propose that we all shun every product from this company and the wackaloons running it, just so they’ll all feel very, very important. And if we all point and laugh at them, their self-esteem will skyrocket, because it can only mean that Satan is paying a lot attention to them.

We atheists live lives of sacrifice, working so hard at the request of our master Satan to make Christians feel important.

25 Mar 03:43

stand-up-comic-gifs: Kumail Nanjiani


Kumail Nanjiani

27 Mar 03:00

Censorship flood: takedown notices to Google increased by 711,887% in four years

by Cory Doctorow

The State of the Discordant Union: An Empirical Analysis of DMCA Takedown Notices , a paper publishing in Virginia Journal of Law and Technology by Stanford/NUS's Daniel Seng, documents the vast, terrifying increase in the use of DMCA takedown notices, which are self-signed legal notices that allow anyone to demand that material be censored from the Internet, with virtually no penalty for abuse or out-and-out fraud. The increase is driven by a small number of rightsholders who have automated the process of sending out censorship demands, industrializing the practice. The three biggest players are RIAA, Froytal and Microsoft, who sent more than 5 million notices each in 2012, and at least doubled their takedowns again in 2013. In the four years between 2008 and 2012, the use of takedown notices against Google grew by an eye-popping 711,887 percent.

Where copyright holders previously listed only one work per notice, there are now sometimes dozens of movies or tracks bundled in each. This is a worrying development according to Seng.

“It is disturbing to see the trend where more claims and more takedown requests are packed into each takedown notice. Up until 2010, each notice contained only one claim. But in 2011, the average number of claims per notice is 2.18, and in 2012, this average is 5.05,” Seng writes.

More copyrighted works per notice also means that the number of URLs per notice is increasing too. For example, between 2011 and 2012 the average number of URLs listed in each notice increased from 47.79 to 124.75.

According to Seng, these changes can be attributed to a small number of copyright holders. In fact, most copyright holders still submit only one notice.

“These increasing averages paint a slightly misleading picture. More than 65% of all reporters have only issued one notice, and almost 95% of all reporters have issued no more than 10 notices in 2012,” Seng writes.

Google Takedown Notices Surge 711,887 Percent in Four Years [Ernesto/Torrentfreak]


26 Mar 11:00


by Author


Mo teeters on the brink of self-knowledge. Careful, Mo!

There’s 20% off all Lulu purchases if you use the code WAFFLESSAY20 at checkout (until March 31). Just in case you’re thinking of buying a book.

Flattr this for Jesus Book shop here

24 Mar 16:07

strappingyounglil: I want a pet owl!


I want a pet owl!

23 Mar 15:52


24 Mar 00:38

death-by-lulz: Polymer absorbs water and expands. It keeps...


Polymer absorbs water and expands. It keeps almost the same refractive properties as water and appears invisible.

The polymer is Sodium Polyacrylate (thank you, thecraftychemist!)

Featured on a blog

19 Mar 13:24

The Phelps power struggle takes a familiar turn

by PZ Myers

Fred Phelps is out at Westboro Baptist. He’s off dying in a hospice. Apparently his sin was asking for more kindness. The former big voice of WBC, Shirley Phelps-Roper, has fallen out of favor. She has been replaced by a Council of Elders…all men, of course.

Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sr. was excommunicated from the Westboro Baptist Church after advocating a kinder approach between church members.

The excommunication occurred after the formation of a board of male elders in the church. The board had defeated Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church’s longtime spokeswoman, in a power struggle, and Fred Phelps Sr. called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.

The board then ejected Fred Phelps Sr., who founded the church in the 1950s.

Amazing. Yet, somehow, entirely unexpected. How could a woman be expected to run a Bible-based organization? How could kindness be tolerated in a church supposedly built around the teachings of Jesus? That goes against the entire history of Christianity!

24 Mar 05:00

Ifixit's MacGyver toolkit

by Cory Doctorow

Ifixit is celebrating MacGyver's birthday with an Action Hero Toolkit in a Altos-tin-sized-tin. It includes a bobby pin, a match, a rubber band, bubble gum, a birthday candle, a paper clip (natch), a shoelace, a 1 cent stamp and duct-tape. $6.

Action Hero Toolkit (Thanks, Jeff!)


23 Mar 04:51

Architecture in Ruins

by Simon

If making a really nice modern architecture building wasn’t hard enough, Andreas has taken it one step further and decided to add unbelievably realistic damage.


The transition from clean lines to rubble is nothing short of amazing.

22 Mar 16:00

Teens migrate from Facebook to a Youtube video's comment-section (funny)

by Cory Doctorow

Here's a funny fake-news video reporting on the mass-migration of teens from Facebook (where their parents have migrated) to the comments section of a slow-motion Youtube video of a deer running. While I don't think there's going to be mass-migration of all the world's teens to one comment board, there's a grain of truth here. My old Informationweek editor, Mitch Wagner, once discovered some young girls holding a gossipy chat in the comments section of an old blog post of his; when he asked them what they were doing there, they told him that their school blocked all social media, so every day they picked a random blog-post somewhere on the Internet and used it as a discussion board for the day.

Teens Migrating From Facebook To Comments Section Of Slow-Motion Deer Video (via Waxy!)


21 Mar 08:02

03/19/14 PHD comic: 'Cosmic Inflation Explained'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Cosmic Inflation Explained" - originally published 3/19/2014

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

21 Mar 12:00

TSA Confuses Perfume Bottle With a Grenade

by Kevin

The fact that some TSA employees are idiots does not mean they are all idiots. But wow, some of them are utter and complete idiots.

A not-grenadeLast week's idiocy, or at least the one on Friday, was the confiscation of a bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume that, to an idiot, looks kind of like a grenade. At least I infer that from the reaction of TSA agents at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, who—and you realize I don't make any of this stuff up, but I still feel the need to mention that I'm not making this one up—shut down a checkpoint for an hour and called in a bomb expert to examine a bottle of perfume.

A grenadeSee, here's what an actual grenade looks like, or at least what one looked like in World War II. This is probably the kind that most of us think of when we think "grenade." The shell of the grenade has grooves in it to make sure there are lots of deadly fragments when it explodes [edit: or maybe to make it easier to grip], which gives it the distinctive "pineapple" shape. Not all grenades have that—most today are round and smooth—but I'm guessing this is what confused the idiots.

A bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume also has grooves in it, sort of, and is also sort of vaguely grenade-shaped. But there's no pin to pull, no lever to keep it from blowing up before you throw it, and it's made of glass. I did a little research, and I didn't find any other grenades made of glass, possibly because that would be a stupid *$%@ing thing to make a grenade out of. But probably the easiest way to distinguish a bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume from a grenade is this: grenades typically do not come with a spray top THAT SQUIRTS OUT SOMETHING THAT SMELLS NICE.

It's a pretty good rule of thumb. Really.

Lois Lewis, whose perfume caused the crisis, is a record promoter for country-music acts. She probably is not with al Qaeda; for one thing I doubt any of them could tolerate country music for long. (Although Osama bin Laden did have a cowboy hat.) She is a member of another questionable organization, though: PreCheck, the extortion scheme program where the TSA will let you pay it $85 to be groped less often. According to this TSA report, $14.50 of that fee pays for the FBI to run a criminal-records check, and the other $70.50 (83%) goes to the TSA for administration. What is the TSA actually doing, besides paying itself to administrate? Hard to say. There are several major line items here that have something to do with "vetting" applicants. But shouldn't the FBI be doing that, not these numbskulls? And if the FBI is doing that, why does the TSA get most of the fee?

Anyway, here's the thing: the TSA estimates it will collect $65 million over five years for the PreCheck program, about $54 million of which it will keep, and at least based on Lewis's experience that money will get you exactly nothing at all. If they won't even trust you with a glass bottle of perfume, what the F did you pay 85 dollars for?

The TSA's position is apparently that this was not a case of mistaking a perfume bottle for a grenade. No, it was about the policy of excluding items that look like weapons not because they are dangerous but because they could be perceived as such. "They said if as a passenger you were to get on an airplane and you were to wave this around," Lewis said, "that people could maybe construe that as you making some sort of a threat." First, if that's what really happened, why the bomb expert? Was he a replica-bomb expert? Please. Second, what the TSA is evidently saying now is that they're not the idiots—it's you. If someone were to get up and start waving a bottle of Jimmy Choo perfume around, they seem to think, you will panic because you are too stupid to distinguish between that bottle and a grenade. And so they must protect you (at your expense) from your own stupidity.

They may also relieve you of your valuables while they're at it, of course. The "bomb expert" kept the bottle of perfume, which cost $83. Probably running a bunch of tests on it right now.

20 Mar 14:54

Diamonds are not forever

by Minnesotastan

A thread at Reddit addressed the question "If diamonds are made of just carbon, is it possible to get a diamond to catch fire?"

The embedded video answers the question by showing a diamond being burned (heated white-hot, then dropped in liquid oxygen).

Practical significance, for those without liquid oxygen at home and diamonds to burn?
If your house burns down with the family jewels inside, you can collect the pools of melted gold, but the diamonds will be gone in a puff of CO2. Cheaper, more attractive stones, such as cubic zirconia and synthetic ruby and sapphire, are made of refractory metal oxides that easily withstand the same heat. So it's actually mall trinkets, not diamonds, that are forever.
19 Mar 15:44

A wealth/religiosity curve

by Minnesotastan

The chart above is based on data from the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes project, which surveyed people in 40 countries to ask whether belief in God was necessary for someone to be a "moral person."
The results aren't just a measure of people's own religious beliefs, but also of the character of the place they're in and the exposure they have to people who aren't like them. If you've always been taught that the nature of right and wrong and the enforcement of those rules comes from the church, and virtually everyone you've ever known believes in God, those who don't would seem like something of an alien species...

At the other end, if you live in a place where most people don't believe in God, even if you do, you probably know many perfectly nice people who don't, so it would be harder to sustain the belief that they're all inherently amoral...
Commentary at The American Prospect asks why China and the United States "fall off the curve" and attributes the U.S. relatively high religiosity to the fact that "we've always had a dynamic, competitive religious marketplace."

I'll offer a different viewpoint - that the high GDP of the United States is distorted by the concentration of wealth in a relatively small group of individuals, so that the per capita GDP should more properly be shifted to the left, placing the U.S. closer to the curve.  (I have not checked to see whether the Pew study used mean or median GDP, which would address my postulate).

Whatever the reason, it's an interesting curve.
17 Mar 13:14

Common sense about GM crops

by PZ Myers

I find myself continually bewildered by the argument against genetically modified food. However, we have no choice, we need to constantly improve the stocks.

We have a great deal to gain from growing GM crops. They offer humanity a way to improve food productivity without having to make further inroads into our planet’s wild places to create more fields for farmers. The position was summed up by Sir Mark Wolpert, the government chief scientist last week, when debating the CST’s report. "The challenge is to get more from existing land in a sustainable way or face the alternative, which is that people will go unfed, or we’ll have to bring more wilderness land into cultivation." From that perspective, the case for GM crops is unanswerable.

Not everyone will agree, of course. Green opponents to GM crops claim they pose a risk to health, though no research has ever produced any credible evidence to back this point. Thirty years ago, it could be argued that we should proceed cautiously because of potential health dangers. That argument is no longer acceptable.

I have a lot of sympathy for the green argument, except that it ignores the real problem to focus on a minor issue. The real problem isn’t that some of our crops carry modified genes, especially since they all do — every single one of our major food plants are the product of intense artificial selection for traits that benefit agriculture. No, the real problem is how much of our country is overwhelmed with monocultured species — most of the botanical diversity of the United States is gone under a layer of wheat and corn and soybeans and pretty much nothing else. Minnesota is 54% farmland, and we aren’t even the most intensely plowed over state in the country.

It seems to me that the green approach would be to encourage more GMOs to increase the efficiency of farmland use; and to struggle to get less land committed to agriculture by ending the corn ethanol boondoggle and by encouraging more vegetarian diets, so less livestock. Worrying about an artificially introduced gene in a crop seems silly when the real problem is that versions of that crop are taking over everything, replacing wetlands and prairie with endless fields of corn, GMO or not.

18 Mar 01:30

Short Horror Movie Will Make You Sleep With The Lights On, Forever

by Luke Plunkett

This is under three minutes long, but it is three minutes of extremely well executed horror. I'm impressed.

Short Horror Movie Will Make You Sleep With The Lights On, Forever

Swedish animator and filmmaker David F. Sandberg made this short horror flick a few months back, but it's only just started getting some traction online in the last few days. With good reason.



18 Mar 22:05

Nevada deputy who took $50,000 from a man ordered to return it

by Mark Frauenfelder

Apparently the cops are also stupid enough to post their own misdeeds on social media.

In September 2013 Tan Nguyen was pulled over by Nevada Deputy Sgt. Lee Dove for driving 78 MPH in a 75 MPH zone. Deputy Dove asked Nguyen for permission to search the car and Nguyen consented to the search. (Big mistake. He should have done this instead.) Deputy Dove found $50,000 in Nguyen's briefcase and confiscated it. Deputy Dove did not charge Nguyen with any crime. Nguyen asked Deputy Dove not to take his money, which he said was casino winnings. According to Nguyen's lawsuit, Deputy Dove "threatened to seize and tow his car unless he 'got in his car and drove off and forgot this ever happened.'" This photo of Sgt. Dove with the money he took was posted to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department's Facebook page.

This story has a happy ending. Nguyen sued the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and got his $50,000 back, plus $10,000 to pay his lawyer. The Humboldt County District Attorney issued a laughably stupid statement that tried to deflect the blame from the sheriff's department over to the liberal media elite, which had "unfairly criticized the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office as the Sheriff's Office was acting in accordance with the law as they understood it and was not responsible for any procedural defects following the seizure of assets."

A Driver Had $50,000 Seized By A Nevada Cop, But Wasn't Charged With A Crime. Now He's Getting His Money Back


18 Mar 00:00

Soda Sequestration

by xkcd

Soda Sequestration

How much CO2 is contained in the world's stock of bottled fizzy drinks? How much soda would be needed to bring atmospheric CO2 back to preindustrial levels?

Brandon Seah

For most of the history of civilization, there were about 270 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the last hundred years, industrial activity has pushed that number up to 400 parts per million.

One "part per million" of CO2 weighs about 7.8 billion tons. A can of soda contains in the neighborhood of 2.2 grams of CO2, so you would need about 450 quadrillion cans of soda. That's enough to cover the Earth's land with ten layers of cans.

There's clearly not enough room to do this. Even if we stacked the cans up to the edge of space,[1]I don't have any hard numbers, but my guess would be that you could probably stack supermarket soda six-pack crates a few hundred meters high before the bottom layer ruptures. they'd still take up an area the size of Rhode Island.[2]We shouldn't actually try it, given what happened last time.

We'd need to add even more cans to keep up with ongoing emissions. We're currently increasing the atmosphere's CO2 concentration by an average of 2 parts per million each year:

At that rate, we'd need to add one can of soda per person every 30 seconds, which is about 10,000 times the current consumption rate.[3]The global average is one can per person every 5 days. In the US, the average is one every 18 hours. That would add a new layer of cans to the ground every 6[4]I originally had the wrong number here; thank you to Paulina for catching it! years or so.

This layer of cans would get pretty annoying.

Are there any ways out of this predicament?

In some areas, you can turn in soda cans for recycling and receive a small amount of money; in Massachusetts, where I live, it's 5 cents. If you collected one year's worth of soda cans—instead of layering them across the Earth's surface—and emptied them out, you could redeem them for $372 trillion.

With that much money, you could simply buy the world's current reserves[5]Source:, bottom right. of coal, oil, and natural gas—the source of the whole problem.

Then, you put it all back in the ground and leave it there.

Problem solved.

16 Mar 16:58

The wealthy shall inherit the Earth

by Jacob

I started this as a response to this post (hence the title), but eventually it grew so long that I figured I might as well turn it into a post of my own, so here we go. This is about your future. It is fairly relevant to you, if you’re younger than 50 and less relevant if you’re older, unless you plan to live another 50+ years. This is about the future covering a time span roughly equivalent to the rest of my life. (I plan to die in about 60 years or so). Now, where do we begin … let see:

The US became a net energy importer in 1972 and the planetary oil consumption/planetary population peaked in the late 1970s—meaning that population growth has been outrunning industrial growth for thirty years meaning less for everybody.

Since then we have essentially had a redistribution of wealth with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer but everybody getting poorer overall. Losing their source of energy and thus their manufacturing volume dominance, the US has chosen to focus their strategy on global military domination. It immediately follows that by being the dominating military power, their currency would also be strong and thus they would be able to act like the world’s banker (much like the Swiss strategy but on a larger scale). And being a banker pays very well. In summary this two-pronged strategy allows the US the extract tribute from the rest of the world; it happens by borrowing money, spending it on resources, and then inflating the currency the IOUs are denominated in, but that’s essentially what it is. The US is an empire like Great Britain and like Great Britain, it lives and dies with its ability to control its colonies and resist challengers. What we are seeing here is not the end of history but merely the latest in a succession of empires.

Perhaps an intermission is in order here with a few words on terrorism. Terrorism is nothing new. Every empire has it. The European [now former] colonial powers have had it for centuries and this is why they are much more accepting of its existence, whereas Americans have only enjoyed the experience since winning the cold war. Terrorism is not anymore evil than lung cancer is evil. It is is simply a consequence of smoking too many cigars. In that regard terrorism serves a purpose in that it is economically important because it makes colonial administration more expensive. It is politically important, because eventually the colonies will be given up. Both sides of this war knows this although this is not how they phrase it for their respective people.

However, what this means is that globalization will end. I do not think that they realize this.

That’s right! Globalization is essentially the result of economic imperial control rather than political imperial control. Functionally the difference is irrelevant. What is comes down to is essentially whether you have troops stationed within striking range of the country and whether resources are leaving that country in an off-parity trade e.g. (My IOUs for your stuff). It is also to some degree also based on cheap energy (2nd day air, anyone?)—and that era is over.

This means that in the long run, the rich countries will not be those will the largest populations but those with the largest or the best access to resources. That is, the most efficient access. In other words, who has the most resources relative to their population; these are the ones that will live the best. Here I’m talking inorganic resources as well as “live”-resources such as topsoil and water. Since global warming is moving the viable “live”-resources north, I think this makes a good case for staying out of the subtropics. Those areas are going into permanent decline (In 20 years, people will be speaking of the “Central Valley Dust Bowl” around here, if they’re still around). Countries above 45N and below 45S are going to fare better.

In the mid-game, the most important question is where the energy flows. Currently China and presumably India are making their own deals with the Middle East just like Japan and Germany did half a century a go. And just like then, those who already have “good” deals are trying to thwart them. Who controls the oil controls the world. The US is losing this game as a nation (but some people inside the nation is winning it — in fact, don’t think in terms of nations wrt to this .. think in terms of individuals … for instance, some individuals and families benefitted greatly from the latest invasion of the ME) because a factory in China has a more efficient use of a barrel of oil than a soccer mom driving down to the mall to have her puddle’s nails clipped—essentially, globalization is now backfiring.

The mid-game will entirely be determined by who secures which energy resources. Note that those resources will get progressively more costly to both buy and to keep others from buying. The question to ask here is: Who has the resource? Who has the carrier based strike force and the nuclear ICBM submarines—specifically, who can afford it; not in terms of money but in terms of productive capacity and trade (you can by definition not borrow your way to military supremacy/you can loot your way to it though). More importantly, who is currently building new ones? A submarine fleet or a carrier is not something you build on demand. You plan.

In the end-game (around 2050) we will be fighting environmental decay as well as each other. Planetary food insecurity will be at an all time high and we will have war refuges as well as environmental refuges. I think at that point, like now, many people in the rich part of the world will be oblivious to this (as they are now) and there will be technology even fancier than the ipod to keep them distracted (it will be noted that the rich part of the world at that time will likely be the same size if not smaller than it is now, that is, about a billion people out of a total of 9 billion). What this tech is not going to do is to save people—just like it’s failing now—because this is simply not profitable. It is and remains a political problem except at that point, the stakes will be even higher than they are now. At that point in time human life does not matter as much because human life has gotten even cheaper—thus even if you have a billion souls, the total value is small, if they can no longer get their hands on food and energy (and worse, water).

In my opinion the nations/areas most likely to “dominate” the latter half of the 21st century are those with the greatest social cohesion and the greatest cultural experience in declines combined with some food security and modicum of natural resources and technology—technology being something that exists in people’s brains, not something you pick up at the mall (in other words, where are the world’s scientists and engineers going to be living, currently they live in the US, but perhaps they won’t keep doing that.). In that regards having an older and more mature population even leads to a more mature decision making process for the entire country. You will probably not find a more civilized country on the planet than Japan. Conversely, go to a country with a young average age and you will not find much social cohesion; and on the whole it will be more volatile. If the resource availability is not longer growing it will no longer pay to be a growing/growth oriented country. Population growth will come to be anathema, because it is simply unaffordable — there are nowhere for the people to go except to war and the era when wars were won by superior numbers are over (since the introduction of the machine gun). In the future wars will be won, not by whoever can apply force more effectively (WWII), but who can apply force most efficiently (US weapons technology).

However, do not forget that a country can easily suffer internal disintegration due to environmental stress. In that regard, the question is … are you above 45 degrees north (and vice versa on the southern hemisphere) or better … 50 is better, 55 is really good. If not, you will have a problem feeding your population unless you find some expedient way of brining your population down either externally (war, lack of health care, hunger) or morally (procreation control in one way or another). Seeing that humans aren’t exactly far-thinking creatures, this will likely not happen and thus refuges will start moving towards the poles. This is the end-result of the tragedy of the commons once part of the commons get destroyed. Either you fight over the rest or the rest gets destroyed even faster.

You may see it differently, but this is how I see it. Sorry if I sound a little cynical, but I have long come to terms with the fact that few people in charge seems to listen (mainly because they would be voted out of office so fast that their heads would spin, like Jimmy Carter), that is to say, they do listen, but they are not going to tell you, the happy-go-lucky voter, anything, because that would be a conflict of interest in a representative democracy (it’s one instance of the principal-agent problem, look it up) because people essentially vote for politicians who tell them what they want to hear. Yes, they do!

What I can suggest is to move North (whenever you move, no hurry yet). Learn about growing food (this might just save your life or at least make it more decent, this is vital because top soil does not migrate; it has to be created in place, hence intensive gardening skills will come to dominate industrial farming). Learn to be frugal again—it’s better to learn it because you want to than because you need to, so start now. Accumulate real wealth like skills, connections/social cohesion, and resources. The best resources are tangible assets. I’m not thinking real estate, at least not in the McMansion sense or even the middle class housing sense, but perhaps part ownership in a productive entity you control. A forest, good soil, or a small company (presumably if you had a controlling share in a large company, you are rich enough not to worry about this). This is real wealth (unlike the paper networth people of this age are so bent on pursuing) and this, I believe, is what will “inherit” the Earth in terms of which cultures will survive.

Jacob comments:

Obviously this begets the question how realistic is this. It is in essence a gonglomeration of various sources I have read mainly based on sources with roots nature-nature and nature-technology thinking in contrast to sources based on social-social thinking which is typical for politics and economists which leave real world solutions to “Them” and only consider themselves with the distribution of the wealth that is created by others. What is worrying here is that the “Them” they rely on to provide the invisible hand and the substitutions are exactly the one’s warning about the problems.

There are several predictive models. The first real model was the world3 model associated with limits to growth (today there are more advanced models like the M.I.T. model). Anyway, the world3 model, contrary to popular myth, is actually quite on the button in terms of its predictions, now 35 years later.
Read this: for a comparison… [If you don’t want to read through it (that whole, I got more important things to worry about right now thing that keeps everything locked in the status quo) just go to the end and look at the pictures. The “standard run” mentioned in the paper is the “let’s just wait for further data while we debate and do nothing and continue business as usual”-scenario.

Some of these things are happening now, like the beginning of the mid-game with the battle for resources between the old colonial forces (the US) and the up and coming (mainly China).

In retrospect we will likely be confirming peak oil as having happened in the first decade of this century (*see update below*)—maybe widely acknowledged next time oil hits $150, which will happen once we get out of this recession, it will continue to cause boom and bust pricing as it peaks going higher and higher each time.

The first warnings of the south western dust bowl are currently being seen (even in the news, I am very pleased that the US administration publicly acknowledges the pending problems for states like TX, AZ, NM, and SoCA). You saw what happened in Australia—it will happen here next. The Central Valley is not long term viable as a major food production center.

Obviously it is very difficult to see trends that develop over a period of decades because it’s not “in your face” or because events seem unconnected (Katrina was caused by … ? … well it’s widely believed to be a freak accident and caused by failing levies … what is not seen is that the statistical rate has simply gone up. It will likely take a handful of such hurricanes impacting major US coastal cities (I wouldn’t want to move to any of them) on the Atlantic coast for those not used to thinking in statistical terms to finally get it) and people get used to things e.g. we may have new record temperatures around here every year but it’s still cooler than Arizona. This is also still seen as a “weather”-problem rather than a “climate”-problem. It not the weather that is getting hotter. It’s the climate that is changing and becoming more sub-tropic as the sub-tropics (essentially the big bands of brown land on the planet) are expanding. We are simply beginning to have the weather than used to be hundreds of miles south of us. In several decades, we’ll have the weather than used to be a thousand miles south of us.
The big problem arrives once the domains that are “still cooler” are no longer livable… kinda like a border moving back at us. Like the Florida Keys which will to a large extent be swallowed by the sea over the next 100 years.

Now, in terms of doomsday scenarios, on an individual scale, this is probably going to be as “exciting” (no more, no less) as the 20th century with two world wars, the cold way, the first man on the moon. Our challenges will just be different. We will not worry so much about global wars but rather about global epidemics. We will not worry about capitalism and communism. We will worry about humans and nature. On top of oil shortages (which will happen more often) we will also worry about food shortages, etc. I still think most people can remain mostly ignorant (“You speak Dutch in Denmark, right?”) about the big picture while having the little picture changing under their feet either abruptly through disasters or slowly simply due to higher costs e.g. a changing general expectation that people just don’t live as long as they once used to (dying of the funny-flu at age 60 would become more normal).

Also, it should not be forgotten that even today, individual circumstances vary far more than what can be attributed to secular, that is, slow moving macro-trends. The well-off in the 21st century will still enjoy a higher standard of living compared to the globally poor or even middle class of the 20th century. Don’t forget that if you’re reading this, chances are high, that you standard of living is higher than 95% of the other 6.5 billion people (when I was born, there were only 4 billion people on the planet) of the planet. The only thing is that those that remember more than a few decades back would tend to remember that they used to be able to do things (like leave their doors unlocked, live well on a single income, or go to the moon) that they no longer can. But instead they can always down 50 million songs to their iphones or have future American Idols piped directly into their brain stems.

**2011 Update**: The International Energy Agency which had previously maintained a business as usual stance that future oil demand would be met with with human ingenuity has now done a complete 180 and confirmed that global oil peak production occurred in 2006.

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14 Mar 21:41

d0rkyg1rl: fallarcy: thetalkingpoltergeist: midgardmorningstar...







omg i fucking love this

It’s like in the second to last gif the owl is saying “I got kissed by a really cute boy”

"…oh my" 

is this DIsney in HD

Look how cute and pretty this sweet little owl is!

16 Mar 13:50

cosmos: a spacetime odyssey

by kris


i saw so many problems in the first episode of cosmos with neil degrasse tyson. i don’t see how anyone is going to learn anything

  • neil degrasse tyson grew and shrank at will, and stood directly in front of the big bang without harm coming to him
  • he walked around earth around the first appearance of life on the planet! how many countless microbes did he spread to earth’s past
  • he survived the blast wave from the meteor that killed all the dinosaurs

my kids are going to watch this and try to shrink off the goddamned roof!! thanks for nothing, “doctor” tyson and “seth” macfarlane

(actually the show is great, i teared up, please watch it)

14 Mar 18:10

Your bank will pay Microsoft to keep running its ATMs

by Jon Fingas
Believe it or not, roughly 95 percent of ATMs in the world are still running Windows XP -- and that's about to become an expensive problem. Machine designer NCR says that only a third of banks will upgrade their ATMs to a newer OS before official XP...
15 Mar 01:00

laughingsquid: Model Trains Going Around a Rail Spiral in an...

16 Mar 15:26

Water Droplets Flow Uphill through a Superheated Maze Thanks to the Leidenfrost Effect

by Christopher Jobson

Water Droplets Flow Uphill through a Superheated Maze Thanks to the Leidenfrost Effect water science mazes

Water Droplets Flow Uphill through a Superheated Maze Thanks to the Leidenfrost Effect water science mazes

Water Droplets Flow Uphill through a Superheated Maze Thanks to the Leidenfrost Effect water science mazes

The folks over at Science Friday made this fascinating video about the Leidenfrost Effect, where water dropped on an extremely hot surface is capable of floating instead of immediately evaporating. While studying the bizarre effect, physicists at the University of Bath realized that not only does the water float, but under the right conditions and temperatures it can actually climb upward. The playful experiments lead to the creation of an incredible superheated maze. (via The Awesomer)