October 8, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Smartest man in Texas saves his home during the flood with something his friends laughed at him for – This video shows a guy that filled tubes around his house with water to form a makeshift damn that protected his house.


How the Elderly Lose Their Rights – This is a very scary and fascinating story. In many places (they focus on Nevada), someone can petition the court to make them the guardian of an elderly person with whom they have no relationship. This tells about someone effectively enslaving an elderly couple and bleeding them of their funds. I guess that the lesson here is that if you are going to grow old with assets worth stealing, make sure that you have some younger people close to you that will fight this sort of thing vigorously if it happens.


Mass Killings: An Evolutionary Perspective – This article sees mass killings as being status related.


Why Can’t Americans Ditch Checks? – We really need to move beyond checks. At the very least, don’t allow anyone to write a check at a store when someone is behind them.


A ‘Sonic Attack’ on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It – I’m not a scientist, but I thought this was stupid the minute I heard of it. Maybe they are being poisoned. Maybe it is a mass hallucination. Maybe it is some weird spy game thing. It is not some sort of sonic attack.


GiveDirectly comes to Houston – It looks like GiveDirectly is a charity that hands out cash and lets the recipients use it however they need it. I think it is an interesting concept, but not so interesting that I’m going to donate.


Buy These 20 Toys Now Because They Will Sell Out By the Holiday – Someone’s predictions for what the hot toys will be this Christmas. Looks like a pretty weak year to me.

Health – Physical and Mental

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things? – Being smart and wise (they refer to it as being able to think critically) are different things.


Scientists Are Racing to Create Synthetic Blood in the Wake of Mass Tragedies – Hurry up. I’ll be delighted when “giving blood” is a thing of the past. Oh, and for those of you that don’t give blood because you don’t like needles or whatever, NOBODY likes having a needle jammed in their arm for 15 minutes. You’re just making excuses. Just like the way that they should (but don’t) allocate organs to organ donors first, when they need to dole out limit supplies of blood, they should give it to the donors first and only give the non-donors whatever is left over.


Psychological stress declines rapidly from age 50 in the United States – Really? The first few years after fifty haven’t really seemed that much less stressful. Oh well, I’m not going to worry about it.


Seven Body Organs You Can Live Without – Sort of. Some, like the Appendix, make sense. Others, like Kidneys, less so. Yes, you can live without them, but at considerable cost and inconvenience. If you are going to go that route, why not add lungs and hearts to the list? It’s just a more extreme form of the same concepts.

Art and Culture

Behind the Magic of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – This video shows how some of the effects for the most recent Star Wars movie were put together.


An Artist Is Launching a 100-Foot Satellite That Will Be Visible to the Naked Eye – OK. Not sure what to think about this one.


Number Six At 50: The 50th Anniversary Of ‘The Prisoner’ – The 50th anniversary of a cool (but very, very weird) show. It was the show that introduced me to the Lotus Seven.


Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation – This wasn’t convincing at all. Their argument is that, as the number of particles you have to simulate grows, the complexity of the simulation grows exponentially – a concept familiar to anyone that has had to watch more than one child. But this logic assumes that whatever runs our “simulation” isn’t infinitely powerful (by our standards).


Violent helium reaction on white dwarf surface triggers supernova explosion – They think they saw a helium explosion trigger a supernova. That’s interesting enough, I guess, but what really struck me was this line “Among 100 supernovae we discovered in a single night, we identified a Type Ia supernova that had exploded only within a day before our observation.” We must live in a big universe when we can find 100 giant stars exploding in one night.


Why fake islands might be a real boon for science – Not sure about this. It seems like an awfully expensive way to add more land. The biggest potential benefit that I see is the ability to create places that aren’t under the control of any existing government, hopefully allowing more experimentation in governing models.


APPLE IS REALLY BAD AT DESIGN – I don’t really follow the iStuff space in much detail, but I’ve been somewhat surprised at how many iStuff fans have reacted so negatively to the new iPhones. I’m not sure why that is. It almost feels like the reaction of someone with an insufficiently requited crush.


Free Viewpoint Video – The concept that this video attempts to illustrate is that if you have a lot of high resolution cameras around a stadium and enough computing power, you can place virtual cameras almost anywhere and watch the event from almost any perspective. The future is going to be really cool.


The Rise of Necrofauna and the Ethical Dilemma of De-Extinction –I love the term Necrofauna. I’m a fan of the idea of bringing back extinct creatures, but it looks like it isn’t really possible. It looks like they are talking about recreating them. Sort of like the difference between running the original code for an old game on an emulator vs rewriting the game.


GoPro: This Is Fusion – This is the future of action cameras. It’s a camera that shoots high resolution 360° video and then you control the viewpoint in post-production so you always have the perfect angle. This will do nicely until we get that “free viewpoint” stuff working better.

Politics and Policy

Is Health Care a Right? – This article talks about the debate over whether health care is a right or not. It’s hard for me to really sink into because I am solidly in the camp that believes that our rights restrict what the government can do to us or require from us, not what we can require from it. The article talks a lot about water, as an example, but the government isn’t obligated to provide water and even municipal water services will shut off your supply of water if you don’t pay for it.


Bogus Stoned Driving Arrests Highlight Dubious Methods of ‘Drug Recognition Experts’ – One of the challenges of legalized marijuana is that there is no easy way to test whether someone is high right now or not. You can test whether or not they have used the drug in the past several weeks but not whether they are currently under the influence. Because of that, we are back to relying on unreliable field sobriety tests and, as you can expect, abuses by overzealous enforces are occurring. For example, you can’t assume that someone is on drugs because they drive a Nissan Cube. They may just have bad taste in cars.


100 years of Communist Disaster – A short video talking about the disaster that communism was.


They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants – It seems like a waste to lock people away in prisons when we and they could both benefit from them being productive. The problem is that this sort of thing ends up happening – they essentially become slaves. And while this article doesn’t go into it, when you allow a lot of people to profit from prisoners, you risk having a system that encourages the creation of more prisoners, kind of like when municipalities that made money from red light cameras started shortening the yellow lights to generate more revenue.


I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise. – I don’t want to wade too far into the murky swamp of gun law debates, especially right now, but I thought this was an interesting article.


A progressive VAT – An interesting argument that a progressive VAT tax would be both fair and efficient. I found the article intriguing.


The End of Free College in England: Implications for Quality, Enrolments, and Equity – This study concludes “that tuition fees, at least in the English case supported their goals of increasing quality, quantity, and equity in higher education.” I still remember how excited and then disappointed I was by Bernie Sander’s proposal for free colleges. At first, I was amazed that so many people would donate their time to teach, donate supplies, donate buildings, donate their labor to maintain the physical plan, etc. Then I found out that the colleges weren’t going to be free at all. His proposal was for me to pay for other people’s college.


THE ESPORTS PLAYBOOK – This is Neilsen’s (the ratings company) guide to eSports ostensibly from an investment perspective but really to help you understand how and why you should target that market. It’s a decent, but not surprising, overview of the fans.


MONTESQUIEU’S “SWEET COMMERCE” AND COBDEN’S “GOD’S DIPLOMACY” – This article argues that free markets and free trade actually make people more cooperative than people are when they live in more “managed” economies. I agree.


This is How Shake Shack Will Pay for Higher Minimum Wages – Shake Shack is preparing the use of more automation to reduce labor use in preparation for higher minimum wages. Yet more evidence that the $15 wage is going to be a disaster for those it promises to help. I still like the idea of a minimum wage, but I think every person should be free to pick their own personal minimum wage.