Schlock Mercenary: September 17, 2014
16 minutes ago
Comments, observations and thoughts from two left coast bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is a new assistant professor. Mark is a marketing statistician and former math teacher.
While I think the region-based visa would be a positive step by itself, there is an additional twist I would recommend adding to the policy: require the purchase of a home from the visa recipient. This would be similar to the EB-5 program, which gives green cards to rich foreigners who invest in the U.S. This would allow non-rich immigrants to make an investment in the region sponsoring their visa. Not only does this increase the political popularity of the program and provide a way to transfer some of the gains of immigration to the native born population, but it also serves as an enforcement mechanism. Workers are less likely to leave the region their visa ties them too if they have made a large investment in that area which they cannot sell for the length of their visa.I love the idea of a regional (i.e. state level) work VISA. But the house thing is a terrible idea. First of all, how do you get a loan? If the requirement is "cash on the barrelhead" then we are only opening the market up to wealthy immigrants. High skilled people just starting out are squeezed out of the market. Or you get an asset, with little money down bought by people with a weak understanding of the local market who have the ability to flee overseas if things collapse.
By and large, I’m in the camp of those disillusioned about technology — mainly, I think, because the future isn’t what it used to be. A case in point is Herman Kahn’s The Year 2000, a 1967 exercise in forecasting that offered a convenient list of “very likely” technological developments. When 2000 actually did roll around, the striking thing was how over-optimistic the list was: Kahn foresaw most things that actually did happen, but also many things that didn’t (and still haven’t). And economic growth fell far short of his expectations.It is often the case that Krugman has a relatively unique take on things. Still, he is slowly coming around to having some upside views on one innovation:
But driverless cars break the pattern: even Kahn’s list of “less likely” possibilities only mentioned automated highways, not city streets, which is where we will apparently be in the quite near future.
” The higher graduation rate of students whose parents paid their way is not surprising, she said, since many students leave college for financial reasons. (…)What is the actual target of inference here? Is it GPA or is it graduation?
Oddly, a lot of the parents who contributed the most money didn’t get the best returns on their investment (…) Their students were more likely to stay and graduate, but their G.P.A.’s were mediocre at best, and some I didn’t see study even once.”
This is the chart that I think ought to dominate the conversation about public sector health care spending in the United States and yet is curiously ignored. The data show government health care spending per capita in the United States and Canada. The United States spends more. And that's not more per person who gets government health insurance, it's more per resident. And yet Canada covers all its citizens and we don't. That should be considered shocking stuff, and yet I rarely hear it mentioned.
Even odder is that the most recent time I heard it mentioned was Valerie Ramey talking at the American Economics Association conference in San Diego and her conclusion was that this showed U.S. health care needs free market reforms. The more straightforward interpretation, I would think, is that the U.S. needs to make its system more like Canada's. It's important to note that the example here is Canada. Not some radically different society. Not some far-off distant land. And the gap is actually growing.
. . . I’m generally suspicious of arguments in which the rebound is bigger than the main effect.How many "counter-intuitive" studies would survive this kind of skepticism. Not that a rebound effect can't be larger, but like many unlikely things it requires a higher level of proof.
We examine the impacts of a private need-based college financial aid program distributing grants at random among first-year Pell Grant recipients at thirteen public Wisconsin universities. The Wisconsin Scholars Grant of $3,500 per year required full-time attendance. Estimates based on four cohorts of students suggest that offering the grant increased completion of a full-time credit load and rates of re-enrollment for a second year of college. An increase of $1,000 in total financial aid received during a student’s first year of college was associated with a 2.8 to 4.1 percentage point increase in rates of enrollment for the second year.So not only is the main effect in the opposite direction (at least in terms of retention) but it has precisely the impact on a GPA analysis that Andrew expects: students are more likely to leave with lower levels of support. Do we think that leaving school is completely independent of performance (that there is no GPA difference between the drop-outs and those who persist)? Or is parental support different, in some magic way, than government grant support? People are more careful stewards of government money than they are of money from their close community (and think about what this would mean for charity versus government welfare programs, if true)?
Amusingly, one of Herbalife’s points is “Fact: Majority of Former Distributors Would Recommend Herbalife to Friends and Family.” But that’s exactly what you’d expect of a still-active pyramid scheme, no? Existing members want new people below them on the pyramid. I’m not saying this means it is a pyramid scheme, but it doesn’t seem like evidence against the hypothesis!
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, the stories said, played this season under a terrible burden. A Mormon linebacker who led his Catholic school's football program back to glory, Te'o was whipsawed between personal tragedies along the way. In the span of six hours in September, as Sports Illustrated told it, Te'o learned first of the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then of the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.It has since come out that some journalists had checked some facts and noticed something was wrong but not wrong enough to keep them from running this incredibly dramatic but completely untrue story.
Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia. SI's Pete Thamel described how Te'o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night. "Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice," Thamel wrote.
Upon receiving the news of the two deaths, Te'o went out and led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State, racking up 12 tackles. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. Te'o would appear on ESPN's College GameDay to talk about the letters Kekua had written him during her illness. He would send a heartfelt letter to the parents of a sick child, discussing his experience with disease and grief. The South Bend Tribune wrote an article describing the young couple's fairytale meeting—she, a Stanford student; he, a Notre Dame star—after a football game outside Palo Alto.
Did you enjoy the uplifiting story, the tale of a man who responded to adversity by becoming one of the top players of the game? If so, stop reading. Manti Te'o did lose his grandmother this past fall. Annette Santiago died on Sept. 11, 2012, at the age of 72, according to Social Security Administration records in Nexis. But there is no SSA record there of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, that day or any other. Her passing, recounted so many times in the national media, produces no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper.
Nor is there any report of a severe auto accident involving a Lennay Kekua. Background checks turn up nothing. The Stanford registrar's office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. There is no record of her birth in the news. Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there's no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.
The photographs identified as Kekua—in online tributes and on TV news reports—are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te'o.
This suggests a good rule of thumb to determine when a private company will outperform the public sector: if the task is clear-cut and it’s possible to define concrete goals and reward those who meet them, the private sector will probably do better. “If I can write a perfect contract in which I pay for a concrete observable outcome, can rule out cream-skimming and can ensure the measure is not gamed, there is no reason that the private sector can’t do it better,” Professor Fisman said.
I was reminded of that a few days ago, in a discussion with a Canadian colleague. We have similar senses of humor, so we got to talking about The Kids In The Hall, SCTV, and national styles of humor. (For my money, “Brain Candy” is a neglected classic of dark, dark, dark comedy.) She offered the theory that Canada punches above its weight culturally because its social safety net -- health care most conspicuously -- makes it possible for people to take chances on creative careers. As a result, they get Holly Cole, and we’re left with Adam Sandler.
While I disagree with the specific point about Canada punching above its weight culturally (quick name a great Canadian film that's not "Strange Brew"), I do think that a robust safety net does make entrepreneurial risk taking more likely because people can afford to take the risk of starting a business without having to worry about losing health insurance or other benefits.I think that this is a neglected conversation. The ability to take risks is not just driven by rewards but also by the costs of failure. If you make the rewards extreme and failure punishing then you create incentives for cheating and "doing anything to win".
I used to have a state government job where this dynamic was apparent: the secretaries in the agency were fairly low paid, but had very good benefits. 3/4 of the secretaries in my officer were married to husbands who had their own small contracting or (vaguely) construction related business. They made much more than their wives made, but had no independent health benefits of their own
Cognitive dissonance may also be at work in the compartmentalization of beliefs. In the 2010 article “When in Doubt, Shout!” in Psychological Science, Northwestern University researchers David Gal and Derek Rucker found that when subjects' closely held beliefs were shaken, they “engaged in more advocacy of their beliefs ... than did people whose confidence was not undermined.” Further, they concluded that enthusiastic evangelists of a belief may in fact be “boiling over with doubt,” and thus their persistent proselytizing may be a signal that the belief warrants skepticism.I'm way out of my field on this one. My knowledge of psychology is limited to an undergrad intro course and a copy of Cialdini's Influence, but I'm pretty sure that researchers have been finding this sort of thing since the mid-Fifties when Leon Festinger wrote about doomsday cultists proselytizing more the day after the world failed to end and confirming this and related aspects of cognitive dissonance ever since in a large group of studies. (Discover did a better job with the context, though that is comparing a paragraph to a whole post.)
As a matter of basic social science, what should concern one is not the absolute level of a state's performance now but the counterfactual (what would its performance otherwise be).This is absolutely correct. However, what we are really missing is a time frame for improvement as well as an expected magnitude of improvement. So if we look at 1999, the top rated state in StudentsFirst (La) had a Grade 8 reading score of 252 (compared to an average of 261). In 2011 the score was 255 (improved 3 points) versus a national average of 264 (which also improved three points). Between 2009 and 2011 both La and the national average also improved by the same amount. DC is even more interesting. In 2007 (when Rhee began her reforms) Grade 8 reading was 241 (versus 261 nationwide). In 2011 it was 242 (versus 264 nationwide).
That being said, using it for evaluative purposes is misguided and unfair to educators. I proctor the test, and I see a large number of students who don’t take the test seriously at all. They just click through to get it over with. Our student population has taken the test in the grips of a horrible flu outbreak. Those kids who were actually in school at the time were sick, getting sick, or struggling to get over being sick. When you have to spray down the computers with Lysol after every class comes through, you really have to question the validity of the results obtained. Technical difficulties that require restarting the computer and/or test can also have a suppressive effect on students’ scores.As the Tech coordinator in a school, this seems to be a reasonable position to make such an evaluation. That raises the question of "high stakes for whom"? I am actually a fan of looking at SAT scores. Why? Because not only is the test well respected but the test makers have a financial incentive to make sure the test does what they say it does (so it can continue as a national standard). The students have an incentive to do well on this test because high scores open doors for them. So when a teacher is evaluated on SAT performance, I am pretty comfortable saying that the other actors are likely to have aligned incentives on giving an unbiased estimate.
It surely comforts modern parents who have spent fortunes educating their children to know that these children are spending money on pork belly and not, for instance, cocaine. But what solace can it offer to realize that $300 a week put into an S. & P. 500 Index fund over the past five years would have provided an annual rate of return of 10.34 percent and grown to $100,354 today? Even saving $300 a week at a 6 percent rate of return would have yielded about $91,000, Mark X. Chemtob, a financial adviser at Ameriprise, said, adding that in both cases, the sums would qualify for a down payment on a starter apartment in New York.So if a person invested for five years, and got a retern of 10.34 percent they would have a lot of money. So have happened 5 years ago (2007)? Here is wikipedia:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 all experienced declines of greater than 20% from their peaks in late 2007.So if you had perfect market timing then you could have invested directly after a crash (as opposed to during it) taking advantage of the recent market crash. Unless, of course, you were the 23 year old in the article who is likely in school and not making $300/week of investable income.
So it may come as a surprise that some in Silicon Valley think the place is stagnant, and that the rate of innovation has been slackening for decades. Peter Thiel, a founder of PayPal, an internet payment company, and the first outside investor in Facebook, a social network, says that innovation in America is “somewhere between dire straits and dead”. Engineers in all sorts of areas share similar feelings of disappointment. And a small but growing group of economists reckon the economic impact of the innovations of today may pale in comparison with those of the past.Now we just have to figure out what to do about it.
In Rhee’s grading system, the D.C. school system that is implementing the reforms she instituted got a higher grade than the states of Maryland and Virginia — which consistently are at or near the top of lists of high-performing states — and Virginia. Maryland got a D-plus. Virginia got a D-minus. The District? The urban system with the highest achievement gap in the country? It got a C-plus.
The states that got the highest score handed out — a B minus — were Florida and Louisiana. No surprise there.A quick digression on some good indicators of when a metric has been cooked:
Florida’s reform efforts were spearheaded more than a decade ago by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who was the national leader in these kinds of reforms. The school accountability system that Bush set up, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, is scandal-ridden, but he still travels the country promoting his test-based reform model.
Louisiana is the state where Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal instituted a statewide voucher program that gave public money to scores of Christian schools that teach Young Earth Creationism, the belief that the Earth and the universe were created by God no more than 10,000 years ago. Kids learn that dinosaurs co-existed with humans. That’s the state that got Rhee’s top grade.
Michelle Rhee is a controversial figure, and anything her advocacy organization, Students First, does is going to attract a lot of derision. But having had the chance to play around with their "report card" on state policy, I think there's a lot to like here.You should probably read the whole thing (it's less than 300 words) but this gets at the gist. The entire piece is pretty much just a pander and two short, flawed arguments.
The best thing about it, really, is just that they did it. Importantly it's a report card assessing the state of education policy in different places, not outcomes. ... Only two states score above C+ on their ratings—Louisiana and Florida—and student learning outcomes in those states are far from the best in the nation. If Louisiana starts making a lot of progress in closing the gap with, say, Maryland, then that'll be powerful evidence for the Students First approach. But if it doesn't, then you get the reverse.
In policy terms, the most interesting thing about the Students First report is probably its treatment of charter schools. ... The Students First perspective more wisely dings states that make it too hard to open charters but also dings states (like, say, Arizona) that do much too little to hold charter schools accountable for performance.
The school willing to accept the most voucher students -- 314 -- is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.That's it. Out of the "lot to like" here, Yglesias can only come with a flawed we-can-see-how-we're-doing argument and a highly suspect claim about accountability. Less than three hundred words total and he's clearly scraping bottom to put those together.
The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans, a bunker-like building with no windows or playground, also has plenty of slots open. It seeks to bring in 214 voucher students, worth up to $1.8 million in state funding.
At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains "what God made" on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.
"We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children," Carrier said.
Other schools approved for state-funded vouchers use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don't cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.
Amazingly, the methodology being used by Rhee’s grifters gives states a “4″ (the highest score) if they have defined contribution pensions and a “0″ if they have defined benefit pensions. In other words, states get higher rankings for their education systems if they make their pension benefits less attractive! Even more amazingly, pension “reform” is an “anchor” category, meaning it gets three times the weight of some of the other categories that might actually have a clear positive relationship with improving a state’s educational system.
High-profile social science research aims for proof, not for understanding—and that’s a problem. The incentives favor bold thinking and innovative analysis, and that part is great. But the incentives also favor silly causal claims. In many social sciences, it’s not enough to notice an interesting pattern and explore it (as we did in our Red State Blue State book). Instead, you’re supposed to make a strong causal claim even in a context where it makes little sense.But I also think it omits one piece that is crucial for causal claims: what does a counterfactual look like? This happens a lot with complex phenomenon in both medicine and social science. Just look at the question of whether or not to adjust for variables like blood pressure and cholesterol when estimating the effect of obesity on mortality:
It's possible that most of the thin people who die are meth addicts or have cancer, but even a study which threw out the folks who died within three years of entry into the study found that once you accounted for physical activity*, "underweight" BMIs were correlated with excess mortality risk, while "overweight" BMIs were not. And arguing that the study fails to control for things like blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol seems like fairly weak sauce; those are the very mechanisms by which obesity is supposed to kill us.So what would it mean to make a person thinner and not influence the mediating factors through which the disease operates? It would be a thin person with a lot higher risk of mortality, I suspect. It's the same example as imagining an antihypertensive medication conditioned on blood pressure -- one would suspect that the causal effect of the drug on the participant would be different if it failed in its primary function.
Write a grant application, get three anonymous reviewer critiques. Submit research results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, get anonymous reviewer critiques. Submit your tenure portfolio or post-tenure portfolio to a college promotion and tenure committee, get anonymous reviews. While one may know the general composition of grant review and promotion and tenure committees, you don’t know precisely who is gunning for you. Anonymity is sometimes useful but more often allows petty vendettas to occur that are independent of the work at hand.It is amazing how true this can be and how hard it is to try and modify your approach based on feedback when the next set of anoymous reviewers could be completely different.
Looking more rigorously at the results, the correlation coefficient on the rankings in the StudentsFirst report card with state rankings on reading scores is -0.20. (The correlation coefficient is a measure of the similarity of two sets of numbers, ranging from -1.0, completely dissimilar, to +1.0, perfect similarity.) That’s not a large number, but the negative sign means that the correlation is in the wrong direction: the higher the StudentsFirst score, the lower the NAEP reading score. The correlation on math is even worse, -0.25.
Boston’s Commonwealth charter schools have significantly weak “promoting power,” that is, the number of seniors is routinely below 60 percent of the freshmen enrolled four years earlier. looking at it another way, for every five freshmen enrolled in Boston’s charter high schools in the fall of 2008 there were only two seniors: Senior enrollment was 42 percent of freshmen enrollment. in contrast, for every five freshmen enrolled in the Boston Public Schools that fall there were four seniors: Senior enrollment was 81 percent of freshmen enrollment.High graduation rates seem to be misleading if the weaker students are simply being pushed out and back into the public system (or even worse not in the system at all). An honest conversation about choice requires that we be aware of the ways that private institutions are different than public ones. I know people who have had their kids kicked out of a daycare because it wasn't working out and because a private institution can do what it wants with customers. The ability to remove disruptive students is certainly a nice benefit, but does the likely arms race really work out for the children involved?
Louisiana is the top-rated state, according to StudentsFirst. It ranks 49th of 51 on eighth grade reading scores and 47th of 51 on eighth grade math scores.Washington, DC (dead last on NEAP scores) comes in 4th in the nation for educational performance as rated by StudentsFirst. Now it is possible that these scores predict improvement in these states and that this is the result of bad past policy.
Now, I think in a few years, we can print clothing, and then you can have clothing without sizes, but you have the size that fits you.(Note the qualifiers here: "I think"; "in a few years.")
WOHLERS: You lose a finger, you print out a new one.(glad he put the "eventually" qualifier with kidneys)
CHACE: Yeah, like, actual body parts, printing out new fingers using your cells.
WOHLERS: Bones and bladders and eventually kidneys and so forth.
As for compensation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for professors is $62,000, not a huge amount of money but enough to live on, especially in a university town.As I've mentioned before, adjuncts have no job security and work very hard for little more than kind words and Pez (the median being a lot less than 62K). By jumping from a statement about professors to one about professors and adjuncts, Adams is using a variation on the rhetorical deception I call the cigarettes and cocaine argument.
Another boon for professors: Universities are expected to add 305,700 adjunct and tenure-track professors by 2020, according to the BLS. All of those attributes land university professor in the number one slot on Careercast.com‘s list of the least stressful jobs of 2013.
The other thing most of the least stressful jobs have in common: At the end of the day, people in these professions can leave their work behind, and their hours tend to be the traditional nine to five.Really? That is a rare state of affairs for a professor and is mostly experienced by senior faculty on the verge of retirement. But developing classes, doing research, and writing grants is not a time limited activity that can be trivially executed in a nine to five sort of way. Living withy constant uncertainty about funding and whether you will still have a job next year (dependent on successful of grant applications) is also not a low stress lifestyle.
I n 1933 the U. S. government spent half a million dollars to produce a ‘poor man’s airplane through the efforts of Eugene Vidal, promising a 2-3 seat, all metal aircraft costing $700 (the approximate price of a nice car and considerably less than any aircraft). While this effort was not embraced by the aircraft manufacturers of the time and portrayed as “an all mental aircraft”, the idea was enthusiastically greeted by the public. A direct result of this research was the Erco Ercoupe, which achieved new levels of ease of use, along with a spin-proof, safe stalling, smallfield capable, inexpensive aircraft. T.P. Wright, the Administrator of Civil Aeronautics, wrote an extensive review of NACA small aircraft efforts to “meet the needs of the family”. “When the market for all other types of planes is grouped it is apparent that what may be termed a really large industry, and one having an important effect on national economy, will not be provided. Of course the market for military aircraft will for a long time represent possibly the most important field in aircraft development and manufacture. However, even considering this with the others it can readily be seen that, developed to an adequate extent, the personal aircraft can easily become the most important factor in the aircraft industry. Used both for business and pleasure it is here only that an almost limitless potential market is available.”
Gore Vidal, born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. on Oct. 3, 1925, in West Point, N.Y., was the only child of First Lieutenant Eugene Luther Vidal and Nina Gore, a socialite. His father was the first aeronautics instructor of the U.S. Military Academy and later the director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Air Commerce during the Roosevelt Administration. Vidal's father had so much faith in the Hammond flivver-type plane that he sent 10-year-old Gore aloft to fly it. Vidal is pictured at the controls before takeoff.The flying car starts looking a bit less goofy in this context. Personal aircraft were soon supposed to be common. Neighborhoods would have their own airstrips. The idea of an airplane that was easily transportable and could double as a family automobile had obvious appeal.
Taylor's design of a roadable aircraft dates back to 1946 [first flight 1949]. During a trip to Delaware, he met inventor Robert E. Fulton, Jr., who had designed an earlier roadable airplane, the Airphibian. Taylor recognized that the detachable wings of Fulton’s design would be better replaced by folding wings. His prototype Aerocar utilized folding wings that allowed the road vehicle to be converted into flight mode in five minutes by one person. When the rear license plate was flipped up, the operator could connect the propeller shaft and attach a pusher propeller. The same engine drives the front wheels through a three-speed manual transmission. When operated as an aircraft, the road transmission is simply left in neutral (though backing up during taxiing is possible by using reverse gear.) On the road, the wings and tail unit were designed to be towed behind the vehicle. Aerocars can drive up to 60 miles per hour and have a top airspeed of 110 miles per hour.Mid-century Americans had every reason to have high expectations for this type technology. The past fifty years had seen far cruder prototypes of technology such as the car, airplane and helicopter develop into impressive and commercially viable machines. With the Depression and the war out of the way, there was every reason to believe that the turn-around time from early working model to full production would only get faster. If they could build one jet pack today, surely they could have the bugs worked out in a year or two.
Saying that people are choosing the a cell phone over an outhouse is not the same as saying they’re choosing a cell phone over an indoor toilet. Maybe that’s the choice they’d make, if they had it—I don’t know! But as Kelly’s own account acknowledges, they don’t actually have that choice, and certainly not at anything like the same cost.
Indoor plumbing requires either electricity to pump the water, and a nearby well to pump it from, or a connection to a public system with enough pressure to force the water high enough to flush your toilet. That’s a lot of power, not a trickle charge off of a small solar cell; I believe my great grandparents used a gasoline generator when they installed indoor plumbing in the mid-thirties. Gasoline generators are fairly expensive, as is the gasoline to run them, and I gather that they were only able to do it because their newly married son (my grandfather) saved up to help pay the installation cost, and then paid them rent that covered the cost of the fuel. Most farmers, I am told, waited until rural electrification brought them grid power.Mark also pointed out just how important these elements of infrastructure were in transforming American society. It's humbling to think about just how much effort was required to actually do all of these things (and concerning that infrastructure moves much slower today).
Toffler’s use of acceleration was particularly unfortunate. For most of human history, the top speed at which human beings could travel had been around 25 miles per hour. By 1900 it had increased to 100 miles per hour, and for the next seventy years it did seem to be increasing exponentially. By the time Toffler was writing, in 1970, the record for the fastest speed at which any human had traveled stood at roughly 25,000 mph, achieved by the crew of Apollo 10 in 1969, just one year before. At such an exponential rate, it must have seemed reasonable to assume that within a matter of decades, humanity would be exploring other solar systems.
Since 1970, no further increase has occurred. The record for the fastest a human has ever traveled remains with the crew of Apollo 10. True, the commercial airliner Concorde, which first flew in 1969, reached a maximum speed of 1,400 mph. And the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144, which flew first, reached an even faster speed of 1,553 mph. But those speeds not only have failed to increase; they have decreased since the Tupolev Tu-144 was cancelled and the Concorde was abandoned.
I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.In terms of tactics, simply rushing a gunman whose weapons may be fully automatic is an extraordinarily bad idea, truly a last resort. It looks good in the movies but in real life, every aspect of the maneuver -- range, position, response time -- plays to the shooter's advantage. This is pretty much the situation that assault weapons were designed for.
Unless I am missing a very subtle parody of libertarianism, McArdle’s plan to teach children to launch banzai charges against mass murderers is the single worst solution to any problem I have ever seen offered in a major publication.That's the one part I disagree with, not about it being the worst solution but about it being libertarian. McArdle is suggesting that we institute what can only be a massive government program to indoctrinate kids to put aside personal choice and individual initiative and instead automatically take collective action to serve the interests of the group. I honestly can't think of a recent proposal more at odds with libertarian principles.
This hits home for me in two ways. First, the alleged patents date from 1996, and I was personally involved in a project to put scanners on networks starting around 1994. It was cleverly called NetScan, and it eventually failed for a variety of reasons, but by 1996 we had an actual box on the market that allowed you to connect a scanner and program it to send documents to your internal email account. I have no doubt that the patent trolls in this case would argue that the technology we used was subtly different from theirs (we emailed TIFF files, for example, while their patent covers PDFs), but that's almost certainly legalistic nonsense. You connected a scanner to our box, entered a bunch of data identifying users, and then you could scan documents and have them automatically emailed to your desktop. We didn't even bother patenting it because the idea was pretty obvious.I think that this makes it pretty clear how silly a lot of modern patent law has become. There is not really any innovation being protected here and, instead, we have a lot of lawyers becoming rich because somebody decided to take out a patent on what people were already doing.