Archive for December 5th, 2009

How to make a puzzle

| December 5, 2009 | Reply
How to make a puzzle

Scott Kim, a guru of puzzle-making, gave this delightful talk at TED on how to design a puzzle. Also check out some of Kim’s work at Shufflebrain.com.

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The transition to post oil

| December 5, 2009 | Reply
The transition to post oil

Post Carbon Institute Fellow Rob Hopkins gives us the hard facts that we are running out of oil and it is taking immensely more energy to extract the oil that remains. Can technology solve the impending crisis? How shall the transition proceed? This talk parallels many of the observations of Hopkins’ earlier paper, entitled “Searching for a Miracle,” both of which should serve as a wake up call for massive conservation efforts. We need to be “loving and leaving all that oil has done for us,” and getting ready for the transition:

The fundamental disturbing conclusion of the report is that there is little likelihood that either conventional fossil fuels or alternative energy sources can reliably be counted on to provide the amount and quality of energy that will be needed to sustain economic growth—or even current levels of economic activity—during the remainder of the current century.

This preliminary conclusion in turn suggests that a sensible transition energy plan will have to emphasize energy conservation above all. It also raises questions about the sustainability of growth per se, both in terms of human population numbers and economic activity.

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What if most people really believed in Santa?

| December 5, 2009 | Reply
What if most people really believed in Santa?

Here’s a post by Brent Rassmussen, who sketches out a hypothetical world where the majority of people claimed that they really believed in Santa Claus and insisted that you (a non-Santa-ist) should believe in Santa too.

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On the continuing loss of the middle class

| December 5, 2009 | Reply
On the continuing loss of the middle class

Eliot Spitzer discussed the economy of the United States with Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow. Has the economy recovered? No:

[W]e have a major crisis in this nation, and that crisis is jobs. That crisis is that we are seeing the elimination of the middle-class job foundation that permits most Americans to do better year after year after year. The reality is median family income has been stagnant for forty years, and the policies of what I call financialization, which is major banks trading assets back and forth, the Wall Street banks, such as Goldman, which is rightly a lightning rod right now for much of what’s going on, buying and selling, playing with tax dollars in proprietary trading—they make huge money, nothing is added to the economy, jobs are sent overseas. All of this going on simultaneously. That is what our economy has become. And Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner were the architects of this.

Spitzer also commented on AIG and credit default swaps:

AIG was, to a great extent—their financial products division—a Ponzi scheme supposedly guaranteeing hundreds of billions of dollars of CDS collateral, credit default swaps, with no collateral behind it. That is part of what brought us down. But that is the system that the Fed was overseeing. They specifically rejected the effort back in ’94, ’95 to regulate this swamp. The derivatives, that are a quintessential Wall Street creation, have some small utility at an economic level, but became an enormous revenue stream for banks, and they were unregulated. People made a fortune. We taxpayers hold the bag.

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