Six Quick Links for Thursday Afternoon

A lovely bit of writing by Barney Ronay about Lionel Messi and Argentina at the World Cup. "Lionel Messi doesn't so much trap the ball or kill it but lets it come and nestle, falling asleep on his toe like a fond old cat." [theguardian.com]

The best 49 stop-motion animated movies of all time, according to Rotten Tomatoes. [editorial.rottentomatoes.com]

kottke[dot]org posts and links are now available on Mastodon! Come follow the site over there if you'd like. [botsin.space]

The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie are doing a joint US tour this year. Big day for Gen X nostalgia; first Tracy Flick returns and now this. [stereogum.com]

Reese Witherspoon will return as Tracy Flick in a sequel to Election directed by Alexander Payne. YES YES YES. [theguardian.com]

Relax with 12 hours of colorful slow motion fluid dynamics accompanied by relaxing music. [youtube.com]

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SpaceX requests permission for direct-to-smartphone service

SpaceX could provide “full and continuous” direct-to-smartphone services across much of the globe with less than a third of the 7,500 Gen 2 Starlink satellites approved last week, the company said in a request to add the capability to the broadband constellation.

The post SpaceX requests permission for direct-to-smartphone service appeared first on SpaceNews.

Dawn Aerospace raises $20 million for propulsion and spaceplane work

Dawn Aerospace has raised $20 million to expand its line of in-space propulsion products and continue spaceplane development.

The post Dawn Aerospace raises $20 million for propulsion and spaceplane work appeared first on SpaceNews.

SES government unit rebranded as SES Space & Defense

The U.S.-based subsidiary of satellite operator SES has been renamed to reflect the company’s focus on the national security market.

The post SES government unit rebranded as SES Space & Defense appeared first on SpaceNews.

Links 12/8/22

Links for you. Science:

Covid vaccine trials didn’t monitor menstrual changes. Researchers say it’s part of a bigger problem.
Gradual emergence followed by exponential spread of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant in Africa (note that there’s some reasons to think this is contamination; these sorts of studies are very twitchy)
It’s a Wonderful Life
Individual bat viromes reveal the co-infection, spillover and emergence risk of potential zoonotic viruses
Multi-drug resistant E. coli displace commensal E. coli from the intestinal tract, a trait associated with elevated levels of genetic diversity in carbohydrate metabolism genes
Effectiveness of mRNA Booster Vaccination Against Mild, Moderate, and Severe COVID-19 Caused by the Omicron Variant in a Large, Population-Based, Norwegian Cohort

Other:

Matty Taibbi’s Dick Pics
The GOP’s “New Direction”: More Extremism
Return on Investment of the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign in New York City
The Disturbing World of the New GOP
TSA now wants to scan your face at security. Here are your rights.
The Many Confessions of Sam Bankman-Fried
He got off Mass. and Cass. Now, he’s working to beat the odds and stay sober.
Why Do So Many International Students Leave the US?
It’s OK to diss the Nazis
Should a Single Trump Judge Have the Power to Void Biden’s Policies?
The 2024 presidential race is only starting. And the Democrats just created a logistical mess.
Kanye West, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and the Mainstreaming of Nazism
When journalists are the target of high-tech espionage
The Rise and Fall of the American Fraudster
The Boss is Watching
Evictions are rising again. It’s time to get creative.
How Social Media Ensures that No One Hears Amber Heard
The GOP Can’t Hide From Extremism
Who’s Watching: The evolution of the right to privacy
‘Outright Betrayal’ Over a Music Industry Windfall
Jiang Zemin, who opened China to markets and corruption, is dead
Paying for Dinner: How Republicans have been trying to spin Donald Trump’s meal with Ye and Fuentes.
Inside Putin’s War of Attrition: Munitions are running low on both sides of the Ukraine conflict as military suppliers race to keep pace with Russia’s furious, WWI-like shelling. The artillery-heavy strategy is forcing the Pentagon to rethink its very notion of modern war.
Winning Hand

Collins Aerospace selected to develop new space station spacesuit

Frank Rubio spacewalk

NASA has selected Collins Aerospace to develop a next-generation spacesuit for the International Space Station, replacing aging suits that have become a safety concern.

The post Collins Aerospace selected to develop new space station spacesuit appeared first on SpaceNews.

Los Angeles dining

Northern Thai Food Club, 5301 Sunset Blvd.  Kao Soi, melon salad, and don’t forget the sour bamboo shoots.  The place has only a few tables.

Old Sasoon Bakery, Pasadena, 1132 North Allen Avenue, mostly Armenian and some Georgian dishes, won’t work on a no-carb diet.

For food, LA is still the best in this country.

The post Los Angeles dining appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

Terran Orbital creates new business unit to produce imaging satellites

Satellite manufacturer Terran Orbital has formed a new business unit that will produce electro-optical imaging satellites.

The post Terran Orbital creates new business unit to produce imaging satellites appeared first on SpaceNews.

Realtor.com Reports Weekly Active Inventory Up 53% Year-over-year; New Listings Down 8%

Realtor.com has monthly and weekly data on the existing home market. Here is their weekly report released today from Chief Economist Danielle Hale: Weekly Housing Trends View — Data Week Ending Dec 3, 2022. Note: They have data on list prices, new listings and more, but this focus is on inventory.
Active inventory growth held steady with for-sale homes up 53% above one year ago. Inventory growth steadied this week, the first time in eight weeks that we didn’t see a larger yearly growth rate compared to the prior week. This move is even more impressive as it comes against a backdrop of smaller listing declines and growing time on market.
...
New listings–a measure of sellers putting homes up for sale–were again down, but dropped only 8% from one year ago. This marks the twenty-second consecutive week of year-over-year declines in homeowners listing their home for sale, but was the smallest decline since July.
Realtor YoY Active ListingsHere is a graph of the year-over-year change in inventory according to realtor.com

Note the rapid increase in the YoY change earlier this year, from down 30% at the beginning of the year, to up 29% YoY at the beginning of July.

Then the Realtor.com data was stuck at up around 26% to 30% YoY for 14 weeks in a row.  This was due to the slowdown in new listings, even as sales had fallen sharply.

Then the YoY change started increasing sharply again as mortgage rates increased.

This week was a change from the previous 3 months - no increase in the year-over-year change in inventory - even with a smaller decline in new listings (inventory is falling week-to-week, but the comparison is YoY).  

A Short History of the Banjo and Early Black Folk Music

In this video from Vox (produced by none other than Estelle Caswell, who does the excellent Earworm series), scholar and musician Jake Blount runs us through a quick history of early Black folk music, using the banjo as a rough through-line. If you’d like to read more about Black stringband music, Blount has compiled some recommended resources.

Tags: Jake Blount   music   video

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Down 7.7% Compared to Same Week in 2019

From CoStar: STR: US Hotel Occupancy Starts December Lower Than Pre-Pandemic Week
U.S. hotel performance came in higher than the previous week but showed weakened comparisons to 2019, according to STR‘s latest data through Dec. 3.

Nov. 27 through Dec. 3, 2022 (percentage change from comparable week in 2019*):

Occupancy: 55.4% (-7.7%)
• Average daily rate (ADR): $141.71 (+10.2%)
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): $78.50 (+1.7%)

*Due to the pandemic impact, STR is measuring recovery against comparable time periods from 2019.
emphasis added
The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four-week average.

Hotel Occupancy RateClick on graph for larger image.

The red line is for 2022, black is 2020, blue is the median, and dashed light blue is for 2021.  Dashed purple is 2019 (STR is comparing to a strong year for hotels).

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate is above the median rate for the previous 20 years (Blue) and close to 2019 levels.

Note: Y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the seasonal change.

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate continue to decline into the Winter.

Georgia Election: The Good News and The Very Bad

Do We Care About Candidate Quality?

 

It is our job to learn from events, of course; the whole point of following the news is to fuel understanding.

So, what have we learned by the overly narrow runoff election in Georgia in which more Democratic urban voters outnumbered the larger rural, Republican areas of the state to reelect Sen. Raphael Warnock over one-time football star Herschel Walker. The punsters were unrestrained by fact or research in reaching for useful lessons.

There is room for debate on issues, but we should not be supporting candidates who are facing criminal charges for their personal and political behavior.

The good news is that democracy and persistence on wanting to pursue voting through a variety of state legislative hurdles to reduce that opportunity held, despite the parties dropping a half-billion dollars on this race alone, and despite featuring a candidate whose flaws were on display every week of the campaign.

The bad news is that it seems as if it didn’t matter who was running. The real question to me was how people could vote for Walker at all, never mind at rates that made it an uncomfortably close race until the arrival of big urban precinct results around Atlanta.

Until his concession speech, Herschel Walker proved consistently unable to show himself capable of speaking full sentences, of understanding public issues, of reflecting himself as a person of moral character, of promoting even a single idea about what government is meant to achieve. He was a terrible candidate.

And yet, Republican voters, like Democrats, showed up in remarkably large numbers to vote for an empty jersey so long as it had the appropriate Republican team color. We insist on voting against Them, not for anything.

Does it Matter?

Whatever else you want to say about Warnock, he is a serious person. His leadership at Ebeneezer Baptist Church has translated well into a senator who seems pointedly fixated on building coalitions and pursuing issues of social betterment, including policing changes, voter rights and generally sensible policies.

He is neither the most liberal nor the most outspoken senator, he is regarded even in his first couple of years as a teammate who seeks to understand issues. The emphasis here is on serious and engaged in the job.

The insistence of would-be kingmaker Donald Trump to handpick Walker as another celebrity who should be ushered into a Senate seat to quietly reflect a MAGA agenda proved ineffective – again – and a basic insult to Georgia voters. As we all saw, Walker underperformed in Republican areas of the state in any effort towards rebutting the expected bigger numbers from the state’s more urban counties.

One television reporter dutifully interviewed a voter who explained that she was supporting Walker because she does not like inflated prices at the supermarket and gas pump. The reporter failed to ask the logical next question: What was Walker going to do about either, especially since monthly figures show that both as starting to crest.

So, as with professional baseball, we’re being asked to support, rally, finance and vote for different colored uniforms, not for the players who fill them. In return, successful ballplayers are returning that fan love by signing onto the contracts with the next high-paying team rather than sticking with whatever made them successful.

Ultimately, our elections are about our candidates, not just the team colors, right? Georgia results say different.

Choosing Candidates

It is inexplicable why voters have chosen some of the current senators or members of Congress, regardless of party, in cases when the office holder has abused the office even to the point of facing charges for violations of law. There is room for debate on issues, but we should not be supporting candidates who are facing criminal charges for their personal and political behavior.

Yet, we have Trump who is eagerly supported as leader of a Republican Party, even though his candidates lose.

Herschel Walker, who turns out to live in Texas and not Georgia, faces multiple allegations over years of domestic violence. He talks about vampires and werewolves on the campaign trail rather than policy over Ukraine, education, immigration, or inflation. As a Black candidate, he is perceived by Black voters as anything but supportive of issues advancing civil rights, policing changes, voting rights and a long list of economic programs. But he was a Trump choice.

The question that resonates from the election is how voters could see Walker as a positive, making this a contest altogether. Even the Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who stepped up to promote Walker rather than a disruptive Trump, basically had argued that it would be better for him as a Republican governor, to have a Republican senator to call for federal help.

Our elections have become ridiculous in expense and in the selling of slogans. We need to set campaign limits, dump “debates” that are sales pitches, devote actual interview time to determine once again what candidates stand for, not against. If they can’t tell us what they are going to do, don’t support them. You would not hire them; you should not be trapped into supporting them.

Republicans moving into the Houser majority somehow believe that Americans want endless examinations of Hunter Biden rather than thought-through solutions for inflation. The closeness of the new Senate majority should be a reminder that who is in the Senate does matter, and that we need people who can understand more than making America great again.

The post Georgia Election: The Good News and The Very Bad appeared first on DCReport.org.

NHC Atlantic Outlook

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th.

Don’t Believe the GOP Oligarch Hype

I was reminded when putting together notes for the preceding posts that a number of the big Republican billionaire megadonors have announced they won’t be supporting Trump in 2024 – the Mercer family, Ronald Lauder, Stephen Schwarzman et al. This billionaire primary for Republican candidates is a whole issue in itself. But for now, I wouldn’t put much stock in these refusals. Back in 2016 most of the GOP megadonors were against Trump before they were for him. If he’s the nominee again they’ll certainly fall in line. And they may well do it even before he’s nominee.

Needless to say, none of this is about any distaste for Trump or opposition to his seditious and malevolent politics. If that was the case they would have jumped ship after January 6th at the latest. They are pulling up stakes or rather threatening to do so because Trump looks like a loser and businessmen of all people don’t want to put money into a bad investment.

I don’t expect Trump to be thundering back to the dominant position in the GOP he had in 2016 or 2020. (Again, beginning of the end, not the end of the end.) He is still the leader of the GOP and likely 2024 nominee. We can tell that if for nothing else that were he not so GOP stakeholders would be using the anti-Semite hoedown and constitution elimination furors to write him out of the party definitively. What I think we’ll see is a more tangled and protracted process in which the GOP can’t quit Trump but is more sullen and raucous about being compelled to line up behind him. But these big money guys? They’ll get in line.

The Music Gig from Hell

I’ll send out the second installment of my 100 favorite albums of the year over the weekend. This is a special feature for paid subscribers to The Honest Broker. (Here’s a link to the first installment.)

In the meantime, I want to share the latest entry in the competition for the “Music Gig from Hell.”


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Just One More Music Gig in Hell

This comes from the outstanding jazz pianist and B-3 organist Mike LeDonne, who recently received an email from a booking agent. The sender asked whether LeDonne would be interested playing at a venue in Brooklyn.

He hadn’t heard of the place, so he asked for more details.

He soon learned that it was a “door gig”—in other words, the venue would make no guarantee of payment. Musicians who take these gigs are promised some portion of revenues (usually ticket receipts), and so they play at their own financial risk.

I’m puzzled why these kinds of arrangements are legal. I once even talked to some law school professors about this matter. But they assured me that this is all perfectly okay. Yet we all knew that you can’t get away with paying cooks, bartenders, serving staff, or even dishwashers with a share of uncertain revenues.

Those folks get minimum wage or better. Only musicians are expected to show up for the gig with no guaranteed payment.

So Mike LeDonne turned down the gig. But that’s not the end of the story.


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“I noticed that there was a ton of information as I scrolled down the email,” he explains, “and as I read along I was stunned by its audacity.”

The text started out with an innocent request for basic details. What’s the name of the band? What instruments are you playing? What’s your email address and phone number? Etc.

But then the questions got more intrusive.

The venue wanted to know the age of every member of the band, and then asked for the locations of previous gigs with a headcount of people who attended. But that was just a start, because now the venue began listing its own demands.

I’m not making this up. The musician gets no guarantees. But the venue has plenty of them—even a non-compete clause, as it turned out.

But it’s best for you to read it yourself:

[What is] roughly the number of fans you can draw to the show:

Do you guarantee to draw that number of fans to any and all shows that you would be booking with us:

Do you guarantee to make a public Facebook event (or use our Facebook event), and do visible online promotions for the show that we can periodically check on:

Do you guarantee to not book any local shows within 2 weeks prior & 2 weeks after your date scheduled with us:

How do you plan to promote the show:

Do you understand that if you draw zero people to the show, there is no guarantee that any other band’s fans will stay and watch your show, and we will not have the confidence to be able to rebook you for another show:

Do you understand that unless you have a legitimate emergency, if you cancel last minute we won’t be able to book you again:

Have you read the show info provided for you, and have you read the door deal:

**********KEEP SCROLLING DOWN**************

************PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING- VERY IMPORTANT************

20 - 40+ FAN DRAW REQUIREMENTS All artists are screened and booked based on quality and on how many people they can draw to the show, so it is extremely important that you can bring a following of at least 20+ - 40+ people, depending on the venue and the time slot. If you cannot meet the draw requirements, please do not book a show.

We also ask that you do not book any local shows within 2 weeks prior & 2 weeks after your scheduled show with us. We really prefer that you only did local shows once a month or once every 6 weeks, and we explain why below in the “Special Tips and Tricks: How To Successfully Promote and Draw Fans To Your Show” section, but if you can honestly handle more than that draw-wise, good for you and go for it. Usually though, it is the best way to ensure that your following can make all shows and attach value and priority to your shows, because they are always a big deal and don’t happen too often but just often enough to be something you never want to miss. When achieved, it is truly the biggest win-win situation for everyone, most especially for the act who is performing."

Mike LeDonne

As if that’s not enough, all the gigs happen on Friday and Saturday—which are the best pay days for musicians. So you give away your choicest time slots for zero guaranteed dollars, and also have to turn down other gigs for almost a month in total to meet the venue’s non-compete demands of “two weeks prior and two weeks after.”

“This is a new low,” was Mike LeDonne’s reaction. “I can't imagine anyone getting to the end of that email and thinking—’OK sounds cool, let's do it!’ But the sad part is that people obviously do.”


Let me close by sharing a video of Mike LeDonne at a much better gig.

Flamingos From Above

a flock of flamingos from overhead

a flock of flamingos from overhead

The flamingo’s vibrant color makes it a particularly striking bird to take photographs of, especially from the air — the pink really pops against the dark background of the water. Photographer Raj Mohan showcases this in his beautiful photos of flamingos at Pulicat Lake in India.

The annual flamingo festival is held in the month of January, and it is said that about 18 to 20 flamingo groups are distributed across the lake with each group having 700 to 800 birds. This pink flock congregation makes lake Pulicat a pink heaven.

You might remember that flamingos get their pink color from eating halophile dunaliella salina algae and shrimp that feel on algae. (via colossal)

Tags: birds   photography   Raj Mohan

Xander Bogaerts Signs With Padres (11/280)

Xander Bogaerts has agreed to a 11-year contract with the Padres, for worth $280 million. Reports are the deal includes a full no-trade clause and no opt-outs.

Bogaerts first signed with the Red Sox as a 16-year-old in 2009. He turned 30 last October and leaves  Boston having played the most games at shortstop in Red Sox history (1,192). In ten seasons, he hit .292/.356/.458, for an .814 OPS and 117 OPS+, and was a member of two World Series champions: 2013 and 2018.

It's not my money, of course, but that deal is nothing I would have wanted the Red Sox to saddle themselves with. Shelling out an average of $25 million per in Bogaerts's age 38-41 years? No, thank you. According to ESPN Stats & Info, "Bogaerts' deal is the longest contract ever signed at age 30 or older."

Alex Speier (Globe) tweeted

According to a major league source, the Red Sox were "really far" from the Padres offer  and their offers were short of $200M. Just a huge gap in where the Padres went.

Peter Abraham (Globe) added:

Bogaerts, a source said, wanted to give the Sox a last chance to improve their offer. But there was what was described as a "huge gap" between the teams and Bogaerts felt he had no choice but to choose the Padres.

Of course, he had a choice. But, hey, good for X and best of luck in San Diego.

It remains to be seen who will be our shortstop coming next April. If Trevor Story slides over from second, who will play second? The chatter will likely pivot to Carlos Correa, who is two years younger than Bogaerts and has some shared history with manager Alex Cora.

I assumed Chaim Bloom would let Bogaerts go and concentrate on inking Rafael Devers to a long-term deal. The first part of that plan was super easy. Do not fuck up the second half.

Four Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

The Seven Levels of Busy, from Not Busy ("My schedule is wide open. I can choose infinite paths.") to Unsustainable ("Eating and other necessities are frequently neglected.") [randsinrepose.com]

In the 3rd Q, the 5 biggest US banks paid out a paltry 0.4% interest on savings accounts while the 5 highest-yielding banks paid 2.14%. I switched to a higher yield bank in 2019 and they've raised the interest rate ~20 times in 9 mo; it's 2.6% rn. [wsj.com]

Michael Bierut remembers designer George Lois, whose iconic Esquire covers from the 60s are still influencing designers today. [fastcompany.com]

WNBA player Brittney Griner is on her way back to the US after being held in Russia since February on a drug charge. [axios.com]

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Thursday assorted links

1. Is the hurricane problem increasing in severity?

2. Gary Marcus with GPT skepticism.

3. Is the Old Masters market in terminal decline?

4. How is the FDA doing at regulating food safety?

5. Alex Epstein wants market-oriented energy policy tips.

6. ProPublica lab leak story is not holding up.

7. Thread on the weird German coup.

The post Thursday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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Virgin Orbit delays first U.K. launch

Cosmic Girl at Spaceport Cornwall

Just days after setting a launch date for its first launch from the United Kingdom, Virgin Orbit announced Dec. 8 it was delaying that mission for weeks because of technical and regulatory issues.

The post Virgin Orbit delays first U.K. launch appeared first on SpaceNews.

Live coverage: SpaceX counting down to sunset launch with 40 OneWeb satellites

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch 40 broadband satellites for OneWeb. Follow us on Twitter.

SFN Live

Teams at Kennedy Space Center in Florida are counting down to launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT) Thursday with 40 satellites for OneWeb’s broadband constellation, the first of three dedicated Falcon 9 flights OneWeb booked with SpaceX after Russia’s government refused to continue launching spacecraft for the commercial internet network.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage will head into a 373-mile-high (600-kilometer) polar orbit to deploy the 40 satellites, while the first stage booster will return to Cape Canaveral for landing.

There is a 90% chance of favorable weather for launch Thursday, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. Forecasters predict mostly clear skies for the sunset launch attempt, with mild temperatures and north winds.

The launch was delayed from earlier in the week as SpaceX prepared the Falcon 9 launcher inside a hangar a quarter-mile south of pad 39A.

The 40 satellites on-board the Falcon 9 rocket will bring the total number of OneWeb spacecraft launched to 504. OneWeb needs nearly 650 satellites to complete its first-generation broadband network.

“This launch is very, very important for us because it’s going to allow us to increase significantly the coverage of our service,” said Massimiliano Ladovaz, OneWeb’s chief technology officer. “With this launch, we’ll be able to cover up to 25 degrees north and south (latitude). This means the entire United States, and half of Australia down, and (much of) South America.”

In a pre-launch interview with Spaceflight Now, Ladovaz said the OneWeb satellites already in orbit are performing well. OneWeb’s satellites are built in a factory just outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center by a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space. The satellites are are designed to beam low-latency broadband internet signals to customers around the world.

“Our failure rate is very, very, very low,” Ladovaz said. “I think it’s probably less than 1%, and we want to keep it that way, even lower than that. The satellites have had very few issues.”

Forty OneWeb satellites mounted on a dispenser before encapsulation inside a SpaceX payload fairing. Credit: OneWeb

Based in London, OneWeb is one of several operators either already launching large fleets of internet satellites, or planning to begin launches soon.

SpaceX has launched more than 3,500 Starlink internet satellites using the company’s own Falcon 9 rockets. The 464 OneWeb satellites that were previously launched flew into orbit on 13 Russian Soyuz rockets purchased through Arianespace, the French launch services provider, and one flight on an Indian GLSV Mk.3 rocket.

Amazon plans to launch its first two prototype internet satellites of a planned constellation of 3,236 spacecraft next year on the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket.

But OneWeb’s satellite deployment schedule hit a roadblock earlier this year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Arianespace was on the hook with OneWeb for six more Soyuz launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, including a 14th launch that was set to take off in March. But Russia’s space agency set conditions on the mission after rolling the rocket and the OneWeb satellites to a launch pad at Baikonur, including a demand that the UK government give up its stake in OneWeb.

The UK government declined, and OneWeb announced March 3 it was suspending launches from Baikonur. OneWeb reported a loss of $229.2 million on its financial statements as a result of the termination of the planned Soyuz launch in March. The financial charge also covers losses associated with the postponement of subsequent Soyuz missions, and the loss of 36 satellites stranded in Kazakhstan and not returned to OneWeb by Russia, which runs the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Less than a month after Soyuz launches were suspended, OneWeb announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch some of its remaining satellites. OneWeb finalized a similar agreement with New Space India Limited, or NSIL, the commercial arm of India’s space agency, for launches on Indian rockets.

“Unfortunately, all those delays we had with the Ukraine crisis slowed us down,” Ladovaz said. “That’s why I’m so excited about this launch today.”

The contract with SpaceX was surprising to many satellite industry watchers because OneWeb is an indirect competitor in broadband market. SpaceX sells Starlink service directly to consumers, while OneWeb sells to enterprises and internet service providers to provide connectivity for entire businesses or communities.

Ladovaz lauded SpaceX for their responsiveness to OneWeb’s needs, saying there has been “absolutely no friction” between the companies. “We are not competing in the same markets. This is about, really, cooperation.”

“Honestly, it’s incredible what SpaceX can achieve in such a short amount of time,” he said. “It’s in another dimension compared to other launch vehicle providers.”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on pad 39A awaiting launch with 40 OneWeb satellites. Credit: Spaceflight Now

In one example of SpaceX’s rapid pace of development, the launch provider designed and built a new dispenser to accommodate OneWeb’s satellites inside the Falcon 9’s payload fairing. For its past missions, OneWeb used a carbon composite mounting tower built in Sweden by Beyond Gravity, formerly known as RUAG Space, with a capacity to hold up to 36 satellites.

SpaceX developed a multi-tiered metallic dispenser capable of accommodating up to 40 satellites. OneWeb’s satellites separated from their rocket in groups of four on the previous launches, while SpaceX will release OneWeb’s spacecraft in three batches of 13 or 14 satellites.

“It’s actually a completely different design … It’s incredible,” Ladovaz said. “If you think about it, designing from scratch a dispenser in two months, when SpaceX came back to us and proposed that idea, to be honest with you, we were a little bit concerned. But they explained that to us, and we accepted it and moved along with the idea.

Launching with SpaceX offers an extra benefit for OneWeb, which can deliver its satellites to the rocket integration hangar just a few miles away from their factory, instead of flying satellites to far-flung launch sites in Kazakhstan, Russia, French Guiana, or India.

“It’s so much easier,” Ladovaz said. “You can start shipping one satellite at a time instead of waiting to have all the satellites ready in one shot. You can integrate day by day.”

And OneWeb’s satellite builders in Florida will finally be able to see one of their launches in person.

During Thursday’s countdown, SpaceX’s launch team will turn over control of the Falcon 9 countdown to an automated computer sequencer 35 minutes before liftoff. About a million pounds of super-chilled, densified kerosene and liquid oxygen will be pumped into the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket ahead of the 5:27 p.m. launch time.

After teams verify technical and weather parameters are all “green” for launch, the nine Merlin 1D main engines on the first stage booster will flash to life with the help of an ignition fluid called triethylaluminum/triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines ramp up to full throttle, hydraulic clamps will open to release the Falcon 9 for its climb into space.

The nine main engines will produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, propelling the Falcon 9 and the OneWeb satellites into the upper atmosphere as it heads south-southeast from Kennedy Space Center. Then the booster stage will shut down and separate from the Falcon 9’s upper stage to begin maneuvers to return it to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

While the upper stage lights its single engine to accelerate to orbital velocity, the first stage will reignite three of its engines for a “boost back” burn begin thrusting it back toward Florida’s coast. The booster, designated B1069 in SpaceX’s fleet of reusable rockets, will perform two more retrorocket firings with a subset of its engines to slow for landing. Touchdown at Landing Zone 1 is expected 7 minutes and 45 seconds after launch to wrap up the booster’s fourth flight to space. The rocket landing will be accompanied by double sonic booms that could be heard across Florida’s Space Coast.

A SpaceX recovery ship is on station to recover the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing after the nose cone’s two clamshell halves parachute into the sea downrange from Cape Canaveral. The payload fairing will jettison from the rocket about three-and-a-half minutes into the flight, shortly after ignition of the Falcon 9’s upper stage engine.

After turning from an initial south-southeast course to a more southerly trajectory, the upper stage will complete its first burn eight-and-a-half minutes into the flight to place the OneWeb satellites into a preliminary parking orbit. The Falcon 9 will use a southern launch corridor parallel to Florida’s East Coast to reach the north-south polar orbit required for OneWeb’s constellation.

SpaceX launched its first polar orbit mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in 2020, using the southern launch corridor for the first time since 1969. The OneWeb mission Thursday will be SpaceX’s eighth polar orbit launch from Florida, and the first to take off from pad 39A, the historic seaside facility originally used for Saturn 5 rocket launches in the Apollo moon program.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage will coast over the Caribbean Sea, Central America, and the Pacific Ocean before a three-second restart of the Merlin Vacuum engine about 55 minutes after launch to circularize the orbit before deployment of the 40 OneWeb satellites.

The satellites will separate in groups over a half-hour, with the final set of spacecraft expected to separate from the rocket about 1 hour and 29 minutes into the missions.

The OneWeb satellites, each weighing about 325 pounds (147.5 kilograms at launch), will deploy solar panels and activate xenon ion thrusters to maneuver into their operational orbit at an altitude of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers).

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1069.4)

PAYLOAD: OneWeb 15 (40 OneWeb satellites)

LAUNCH SITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: Dec. 8, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 5:27:48 p.m. EST (2227:48 GMT)

WEATHER FORECAST: 90% probability of acceptable weather

BOOSTER RECOVERY: Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: South

TARGET ORBIT: 373 miles (600 kilometers) altitude; 87 degrees inclination

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

    • T+00:00: Liftoff
    • T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
    • T+02:17: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
    • T+02:20: Stage separation
    • T+02:28: Second stage engine ignition
    • T+02:34: First stage boost back burn ignition
    • T+03:22: First stage boost back burn cutoff
    • T+03:33: Fairing jettison
    • T+06:04: First stage entry burn ignition
    • T+06:21: First stage entry burn cutoff
    • T+07:18: First stage landing burn ignition
    • T+07:45: First stage landing
    • T+08:31: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
    • T+55:14: Second stage engine restart (SES 2)
    • T+55:17: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 2)
    • T+58:28: Separation of 14 OneWeb satellites
    • T+01:13:53: Separation of 13 OneWeb satellites
    • T+01:29:18: Separation of 13 OneWeb satellites

MISSION STATS:

  • 188th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 197th launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 4th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1069
  • 161st Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 58th SpaceX launch from pad 39A
  • 152nd launch overall from pad 39A
  • 128th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 1st SpaceX launch for OneWeb
  • 54th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
  • 55th launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 53rd orbital launch attempt based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Learn To Love Those Annoying Fundraising Emails

The pestering and hectoring, the warnings of doom and promised ecstasy, of Democratic fundraising emails has become something between an inside joke and a genuine annoyance for a lot of the Democratic faithful. I’ve seen a few comments or even articles since Nov. 8 saying that now that the midterm is done … well, something must be done about it. I’ve never had a clear read about just how much people are up in arms about this. After all, they keep sending them because they work.

But there’s a more specific issue to be discussed.

The way Americans finance political campaigns has changed drastically in recent cycles. Indeed, the two parties now finance their campaigns is dramatically different ways. And that’s the key. Big picture, Democrats now routinely crush Republicans in small-donor and even hard-money political giving (more on the difference in a moment). Republicans make up the shortfall with totally unregulated contributions from a relatively small number of billionaire families.

Of course, maybe it’s the reverse. Maybe Republicans now have permanent billionaire-class funding and Democrats are making up the difference with small donors. But it’s really the same difference: American election funding is now a mirror of America’s lopsided political economy. In most of the key Senate contests this year, Democrats raised a ton more money than their Republican counterparts. Republicans made up the difference with vast spending by super PACs driven by mega-donor contributions. Those annoying emails work and Democratic fortunes depend on them.

Just to give one detail for illustration: In the third quarter of 2022, the Senate Leadership Fund, effectively controlled by Mitch McConnell, raised $111 million. It had already raised roughly the same amount in the preceding quarters of the 2022 election cycle. This money came almost exclusively in seven- and eight-figure contributions, some of which passed through multiple entities to obscure their ultimate sources. The concentrations of money and billionaire dominance led to the very Citizens United-era standoff between McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund and Peter Thiel over who would take responsibility for Thiel-protege Blake Masters’ floundering campaign.

Of course, it’s not totally one or the other. Democrats have a few big billionaire donors and Republicans still get a lot of money from small donors. On paper, George Soros is the single largest megadonor and of course he’s a Democrat. But even this general exception to the rule can be misleading because a much lower percentage of Soros’s giving goes into actual campaigns. The big picture is that billionaire giving is very lopsided.

Indeed, it’s important not to get too focused on “small donors,” which generally means contributions of $200 or less. A successful lawyer who writes a check for $1,000 is probably more like a small donor than the Uihlein family, which contributed more than $50 million. The $1,000 is almost certainly contributed as regulated “hard money,” whereas the big mega-donor contributions are part of the post-Citizens United free-for-all. In relative terms $1,000 is more like $100 than $100 million. The character of the giving is more alike too. Your $1,000 check isn’t going to get you a sit-down with the candidate or help with that regulatory problem you’re wrestling with. You don’t have any illusions that you’re a kingmaker.

My own experience of this is probably different from yours. As a matter of policy, I don’t contribute to political campaigns. So there’s no tug or guilting. I’m not giving regardless. At the same time, I keep myself subscribed to many of the lists because I actually want to see what they’re saying. For me it’s an aspect of covering the campaigns. This cycle, for I think the first time, I got a few texts from Raphael Warnock’s campaign, which for reasons I can’t quite explain I experienced as a completely outrageous affront to my privacy and dignity as a sentient being. But whatever. It is what it is.

The point is: Those annoying emails aren’t going anywhere because they work. But more importantly, they’re what keep Democrats viable in the era of unlimited campaign contributions, which is increasingly dominated by a couple handfuls of families which give overwhelmingly to Republicans.

2023 Housing Forecasts

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: 2023 Housing Forecasts

A brief excerpt:
Towards the end of each year, I collect some housing forecasts for the following year.

For comparison, new home sales in 2022 will probably be around 640 thousand, down from 771 thousand in 2021.

Total housing starts will be around 1.55 million in 2022, down slightly from 1.60 million in 2021.

Existing home sales will be around 5.1 million in 2022, down from 6.1 million in 2021.

Housing Forecase 2023As of September, Case-Shiller house prices were up 10.6% year-over-year, but the year-over-year change is slowing rapidly.
...
There is an especially wide range in the forecasts for house prices and shows the difficulties in modeling this housing cycle. My view is house prices will decline in 2023 and will fall 10% or more from peak-to-trough (see House Prices: 7 Years in Purgatory).
There is much more in the article. You can subscribe at https://calculatedrisk.substack.com/

Wintry Mix in the Central Plains; Powerful Pacific Storm Approaching

Masking and Communications

To follow up on Tuesday’s post about the CDC very tentatively asking people to mask, the legacy media have a role to play here too. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have led with headlines like “Faced with hospitalization surge, CDC asks people to voluntarily mask.” Instead, we got nothing. I find it hard to believe this is accidental either. As best as I can tell, the prominent dailies, on the whole, think worrying about long COVID is for ninnies and, as for for the immunocompromised, well, fuck ’em amirite? Not exactly covering themselves with glory here.

The other point is that prominent public health people in safe positions–hypothetically, let’s say a former CDC director (hypothetically, of course)–need to stop tiptoeing around their recommendations. It’s ok to you think people should be masking. You don’t have to do the ‘you-do-you but you might want to consider’ weasel crapola. Just say, “Kids can’t get emergency treatment right now, so we need you to wear a mask.” I get not wanting to add “YOU FUCKING COWARD” to the end of the previous sentence, but stop hemming and hawing. Just say what you mean.

I will now go outside and yell at clouds.

Personalization Pyramid: A Framework for Designing with User Data

As a UX professional in today’s data-driven landscape, it’s increasingly likely that you’ve been asked to design a personalized digital experience, whether it’s a public website, user portal, or native application. Yet while there continues to be no shortage of marketing hype around personalization platforms, we still have very few standardized approaches for implementing personalized UX.

That’s where we come in. After completing dozens of personalization projects over the past few years, we gave ourselves a goal: could you create a holistic personalization framework specifically for UX practitioners? The Personalization Pyramid is a designer-centric model for standing up human-centered personalization programs, spanning data, segmentation, content delivery, and overall goals. By using this approach, you will be able to understand the core components of a contemporary, UX-driven personalization program (or at the very least know enough to get started). 

A chart answering the question Do you have the resources you need to run personalization in your organization? Globally, 13% don’t 33% have limited access, 39% have it (on demand), and 15% have it dedicated.

Growing tools for personalization: According to a Dynamic Yield survey, 39% of respondents felt support is available on-demand when a business case is made for it (up 15% from 2020).

Source: “The State of Personalization Maturity – Q4 2021” Dynamic Yield conducted its annual maturity survey across roles and sectors in the Americas (AMER), Europe and the Middle East (EMEA), and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions. This marks the fourth consecutive year publishing our research, which includes more than 450 responses from individuals in the C-Suite, Marketing, Merchandising, CX, Product, and IT.

Getting Started

For the sake of this article, we’ll assume you’re already familiar with the basics of digital personalization. A good overview can be found here: Website Personalization Planning. While UX projects in this area can take on many different forms, they often stem from similar starting points.      

Common scenarios for starting a personalization project:

  • Your organization or client purchased a content management system (CMS) or marketing automation platform (MAP) or related technology that supports personalization
  • The CMO, CDO, or CIO has identified personalization as a goal
  • Customer data is disjointed or ambiguous
  • You are running some isolated targeting campaigns or A/B testing
  • Stakeholders disagree on personalization approach
  • Mandate of customer privacy rules (e.g. GDPR) requires revisiting existing user targeting practices
Two men and a woman discussing personalization using a card deck. They are seated at a round table in a hotel conference room. The workshop leaders, two women, are at a podium in the background.
Workshopping personalization at a conference.

Regardless of where you begin, a successful personalization program will require the same core building blocks. We’ve captured these as the “levels” on the pyramid. Whether you are a UX designer, researcher, or strategist, understanding the core components can help make your contribution successful.  

The Personalization Pyramid visualized. The pyramid is stacks labeled, from the bottom, raw data (1m+), actionable data (100k+), user segments (1k+), contexts & campaigns (100s), touchpoints (dozens), goals (handful). The North Star (one) is above. An arrow for prescriptive, business driven data goes up the left side and an arrow for adaptive user-driven data goes down the right side.
From the ground up: Soup-to-nuts personalization, without going nuts.

From top to bottom, the levels include:

  1. North Star: What larger strategic objective is driving the personalization program? 
  2. Goals: What are the specific, measurable outcomes of the program? 
  3. Touchpoints: Where will the personalized experience be served?
  4. Contexts and Campaigns: What personalization content will the user see?
  5. User Segments: What constitutes a unique, usable audience? 
  6. Actionable Data: What reliable and authoritative data is captured by our technical platform to drive personalization?  
  7. Raw Data: What wider set of data is conceivably available (already in our setting) allowing you to personalize?

We’ll go through each of these levels in turn. To help make this actionable, we created an accompanying deck of cards to illustrate specific examples from each level. We’ve found them helpful in personalization brainstorming sessions, and will include examples for you here.

A deck of personalization brainstorming cards (the size of playing cards) against a black background.
Personalization pack: Deck of cards to help kickstart your personalization brainstorming.

Starting at the Top

The components of the pyramid are as follows:

North Star

A north star is what you are aiming for overall with your personalization program (big or small). The North Star defines the (one) overall mission of the personalization program. What do you wish to accomplish? North Stars cast a shadow. The bigger the star, the bigger the shadow. Example of North Starts might include: 

  1. Function: Personalize based on basic user inputs. Examples: “Raw” notifications, basic search results, system user settings and configuration options, general customization, basic optimizations
  2. Feature: Self-contained personalization componentry. Examples: “Cooked” notifications, advanced optimizations (geolocation), basic dynamic messaging, customized modules, automations, recommenders
  3. Experience: Personalized user experiences across multiple interactions and user flows. Examples: Email campaigns, landing pages, advanced messaging (i.e. C2C chat) or conversational interfaces, larger user flows and content-intensive optimizations (localization).
  4. Product: Highly differentiating personalized product experiences. Examples: Standalone, branded experiences with personalization at their core, like the “algotorial” playlists by Spotify such as Discover Weekly.

Goals

As in any good UX design, personalization can help accelerate designing with customer intentions. Goals are the tactical and measurable metrics that will prove the overall program is successful. A good place to start is with your current analytics and measurement program and metrics you can benchmark against. In some cases, new goals may be appropriate. The key thing to remember is that personalization itself is not a goal, rather it is a means to an end. Common goals include:

  • Conversion
  • Time on task
  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Customer satisfaction 

Touchpoints

Touchpoints are where the personalization happens. As a UX designer, this will be one of your largest areas of responsibility. The touchpoints available to you will depend on how your personalization and associated technology capabilities are instrumented, and should be rooted in improving a user’s experience at a particular point in the journey. Touchpoints can be multi-device (mobile, in-store, website) but also more granular (web banner, web pop-up etc.). Here are some examples:

Channel-level Touchpoints

  • Email: Role
  • Email: Time of open
  • In-store display (JSON endpoint)
  • Native app
  • Search

Wireframe-level Touchpoints

  • Web overlay
  • Web alert bar
  • Web banner
  • Web content block
  • Web menu

If you’re designing for web interfaces, for example, you will likely need to include personalized “zones” in your wireframes. The content for these can be presented programmatically in touchpoints based on our next step, contexts and campaigns.

Contexts and Campaigns

Once you’ve outlined some touchpoints, you can consider the actual personalized content a user will receive. Many personalization tools will refer to these as “campaigns” (so, for example, a campaign on a web banner for new visitors to the website). These will programmatically be shown at certain touchpoints to certain user segments, as defined by user data. At this stage, we find it helpful to consider two separate models: a context model and a content model. The context helps you consider the level of engagement of the user at the personalization moment, for example a user casually browsing information vs. doing a deep-dive. Think of it in terms of information retrieval behaviors. The content model can then help you determine what type of personalization to serve based on the context (for example, an “Enrich” campaign that shows related articles may be a suitable supplement to extant content).

Personalization Context Model:

  1. Browse
  2. Skim
  3. Nudge
  4. Feast

Personalization Content Model:

  1. Alert
  2. Make Easier
  3. Cross-Sell
  4. Enrich

We’ve written extensively about each of these models elsewhere, so if you’d like to read more you can check out Colin’s Personalization Content Model and Jeff’s Personalization Context Model

User Segments

User segments can be created prescriptively or adaptively, based on user research (e.g. via rules and logic tied to set user behaviors or via A/B testing). At a minimum you will likely need to consider how to treat the unknown or first-time visitor, the guest or returning visitor for whom you may have a stateful cookie (or equivalent post-cookie identifier), or the authenticated visitor who is logged in. Here are some examples from the personalization pyramid:

  • Unknown
  • Guest
  • Authenticated
  • Default
  • Referred
  • Role
  • Cohort
  • Unique ID

Actionable Data

Every organization with any digital presence has data. It’s a matter of asking what data you can ethically collect on users, its inherent reliability and value, as to how can you use it (sometimes known as “data activation.”) Fortunately, the tide is turning to first-party data: a recent study by Twilio estimates some 80% of businesses are using at least some type of first-party data to personalize the customer experience. 

Chart that answers the question "Why is your company focusing on using first-party data for personalization?" The top answer (at 53%) is "it’s higher quality." That is followed by "It’s easier to manage" (46%), "it provides better privacy" (45%), "it’s easier to obtain" (42%), "it’s more cost-effective" (40%), "it’s more ethical" (37%), "our customers want us to" (36%), "it’s the industry norm" (27%), "it’s easier to comply with regulations" (27%), and "we are phasing out 3rd party cookies" (21%).
Source: “The State of Personalization 2021” by Twilio. Survey respondents were n=2,700 adult consumers who have purchased something online in the past 6 months, and n=300 adult manager+ decision-makers at consumer-facing companies that provide goods and/or services online. Respondents were from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.Data was collected from April 8 to April 20, 2021.

First-party data represents multiple advantages on the UX front, including being relatively simple to collect, more likely to be accurate, and less susceptible to the “creep factor” of third-party data. So a key part of your UX strategy should be to determine what the best form of data collection is on your audiences. Here are some examples:

Chart showing the impact of personalization across different phases of personalization maturity. It shows that effort is high in the early phases, but drops off quickly starting in phase 3 (machine learning) while at the same time conversion rates, AOV, and ROI increase from a relatively low level to off the chart.
Figure 1.1.2: Example of a personalization maturity curve, showing progression from basic recommendations functionality to true individualization. Credit: https://kibocommerce.com/blog/kibos-personalization-maturity-chart/

There is a progression of profiling when it comes to recognizing and making decisioning about different audiences and their signals. It tends to move towards more granular constructs about smaller and smaller cohorts of users as time and confidence and data volume grow.

While some combination of implicit / explicit data is generally a prerequisite for any implementation (more commonly referred to as first party and third-party data) ML efforts are typically not cost-effective directly out of the box. This is because a strong data backbone and content repository is a prerequisite for optimization. But these approaches should be considered as part of the larger roadmap and may indeed help accelerate the organization’s overall progress. Typically at this point you will partner with key stakeholders and product owners to design a profiling model. The profiling model includes defining approach to configuring profiles, profile keys, profile cards and pattern cards. A multi-faceted approach to profiling which makes it scalable.

Pulling it Together

While the cards comprise the starting point to an inventory of sorts (we provide blanks for you to tailor your own), a set of potential levers and motivations for the style of personalization activities you aspire to deliver, they are more valuable when thought of in a grouping. 

In assembling a card “hand”, one can begin to trace the entire trajectory from leadership focus down through a strategic and tactical execution. It is also at the heart of the way both co-authors have conducted workshops in assembling a program backlog—which is a fine subject for another article.

In the meantime, what is important to note is that each colored class of card is helpful to survey in understanding the range of choices potentially at your disposal, it is threading through and making concrete decisions about for whom this decisioning will be made: where, when, and how.

Cards on a table. At the top: Function is the north star & customer satisfaction is the goal. User segment is unknown, the actionable data is a quiz, context is a nudge, campaign is to make something easier, and the touchpoint is a banner.
Scenario A: We want to use personalization to improve customer satisfaction on the website. For unknown users, we will create a short quiz to better identify what the user has come to do. This is sometimes referred to as “badging” a user in onboarding contexts, to better characterize their present intent and context.

Lay Down Your Cards

Any sustainable personalization strategy must consider near, mid and long-term goals. Even with the leading CMS platforms like Sitecore and Adobe or the most exciting composable CMS DXP out there, there is simply no “easy button” wherein a personalization program can be stood up and immediately view meaningful results. That said, there is a common grammar to all personalization activities, just like every sentence has nouns and verbs. These cards attempt to map that territory.

AAR: November Rail Carloads Down Slightly Year-over-year, Intermodal Down

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.
Total U.S. rail carloads in November were down 0.9% from last year, but the weekly average for the month (232,547) was slightly higher than the weekly average so far in 2022 (231,961). In November, eight of the 20 carload categories we track had gains. ... U.S. intermodal originations, which are not included in carloads, fell 5.4% in November — their ninth straight decline and 15th in the past 16 months. Year-to-date intermodal was down 4.8%.
emphasis added
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the six-week average of U.S. Carloads in 2020, 2021 and 2022:
Total originated carloads in November on U.S. railroads averaged 232,547 per week, down 0.9% from November 2021 but slightly higher than the average week so far in 2022.
Rail TrafficThe second graph shows the six-week average (not monthly) of U.S. intermodal in 2020, 2021 and 2022: (using intermodal or shipping containers):
U.S. intermodal originations, which are not included in carloads, fell 5.4% in November 2022 from November 2021 — their ninth straight year-over-year decline and 15th in the past 16 months. In 2022 through November, intermodal volume was down 4.8% (637,473 containers and trailers) from last year but was up 1.7% (211,419 units) over 2020. Much of what railroads haul in intermodal service fills the shelves of big-box and other retailers, and retailers’ demand for items to fill their shelves depends in part on inventory levels.

The Top Gun “Mach 10” Scene Is Like a Perfect Pop Song

As I said in my recent media diet post, I really enjoyed Top Gun: Maverick. It’s a movie that’s made to be seen on a big screen with a loud sound system — I ended up seeing it in the theater twice. The movie just felt…good. Like a really well-crafted pop tune. In this video, Evan Puschak takes a look at the first scene in the film where (spoilers!) test pilot Maverick needs to achieve Mach 10 in an experimental plane and compares it to the structure of a pop song. His comparison really resonated with me because I listen to music and watch movies (particularly action movies) in a similar way: how movies and music feel and how they make me feel is often more important than plot or dialogue or lyrics.

Tags: Evan Puschak   film school   movies   music   Top Gun   video

3 Technical Accelerators for Space Domain Awareness

The race is on to develop space capabilities for a growing array of national security, civil, and commercial priorities.

The post 3 Technical Accelerators for Space Domain Awareness appeared first on SpaceNews.

Two Quick Links for Thursday Morning

Members of The NY Times Guild are going on strike today and you can help them out by not engaging with any NY Times products today. [twitter.com]

Bourdain's World Map, a collection of all the places (restaurants, shops, hotels) that Anthony Bourdain went when filming Parts Unknown and No Reservations. [anthonybourdainworldmap.com]

---

Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of kottke.org, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increase to 230,000

The DOL reported:
In the week ending December 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 230,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 225,000 to 226,000. The 4-week moving average was 230,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 228,750 to 229,000.
emphasis added
The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

Click on graph for larger image.

The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims increased to 230,000.

The previous week was revised up.

Weekly claims were at the consensus forecast.

Three way liver exchange in Pakistan, reported in JAMA Surgery by Salman, Arsalan, and Dar, in collaboration with economist Alex Chan

 Here's an exciting account, just published in JAMA Surgery, of a three way liver exchange in Pakistan, achieved in part by collaboration with economist and market designer Alex Chan (who is on the job market this year).

Launching Liver Exchange and the First 3-Way Liver Paired Donation by Saad Salman, MD, MPH1; Muhammad Arsalan, MBBS2; Faisal Saud Dar, MBBS2, JAMA Surg. Published online December 7, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2022.5440 (pdf)

Here are the first paragraphs:

"There is a shortage of transplantable organs almost everywhere in the world. In the US, about 6000 transplant candidates die waiting each year.1 In Pakistan, 30% to 50% of patients who needed a liver transplant are unable to secure a compatible donor, and about 10 000 people die each year waiting for a liver.2 Kidney paired donations, supported by Nobel Prize–winning kidney exchange (KE) algorithms,3 have enabled living donor kidneys to become an important source of kidneys. Exchanges supported by algorithms that systematically identify the optimal set of paired donations has yet to take hold for liver transplant.

"The innovation reported here is the successful implementation of a liver exchange mechanism4 that also led to 3 liver allotransplants and 3 hepatectomies between 3 incompatible patient-donor pairs with living donor–patient ABO/size incompatibilities. These were facilitated by one of the world’s first documented 3-way liver paired donations (LPD) between patient-donor pairs.

"Since 2018 and 2019, we have explored LPD as a strategy to overcome barriers for liver failure patients in Pakistan in collaboration with economist Alex Chan, MPH.2 With LPD, the incompatibility issues with relative donors can be solved by exchanging donors. The Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI) adopted a liver exchange algorithm developed by Chan4 to evaluate LPD opportunities that prioritizes clinical urgency (Model for End-stage Liver Disease [MELD] scores) while maximizing transplant-enabling 2-way or 3-way swaps that ensures that hepatectomies for every donor within each swap has comparable ex ante risk (to ensure fairness). As of March 2022, 20 PKLI liver transplant candidates had actively coregistered living and related but incompatible liver donors. Evaluating these 20 incompatible patient-donor pairs with the algorithm,4 we found 7 potential transplants by two 2-way swaps and the 3-way swap reported. In contrast to ad hoc manual identification of organ exchange opportunities, the hallmark of a scalable organ exchange program is the regular deployment of algorithms to systematically identify possible exchanges. Regular deployment of LPD algorithms is novel.

"A total of 6 procedures took place on March 17, 2022. Patient 1, a 57-year-old man, received a right liver lobe from donor 2, a 28-year-old coregistered donor of patient 2 (56-year-old man), who in turn received a right liver lobe from donor 3, a 35-year-old woman who was a coregistered donor of patient 3. Patient 3, a 46-year-old man, received a right liver lobe from donor 1, a 22-year-old woman who was a coregistered donor of patient 1, completing the cycle (Figure). Five PKLI consultant surgeons and 7 senior registrars led the hepatectomies and liver allotransplants; 6 operating rooms were used simultaneously. One month postsurgery, all patients and donors are robust with no graft rejection. All the donors are doing well in the follow-up visits and have shown no psychological issues."



Here's a sentence in the acknowledgements:

"We thank Alex Chan, MPH (Stanford University, Palo Alto, California), whose initiative and expertise in economics were the key driving forces for launching liver exchange."

*********
NB: this is a "Surgical Innovation" article, for which the journal requires that there be no more than three authors.

And here are the references cited:

1.
Chan  A, Roth  AE. Regulation of organ transplantation and procurement: a market design lab experiment. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.alexchan.net/_files/ugd/a47645_99b1d4843f2f42beb95b94e43547083b.pdf
2.
Salman  S, Gurev  S, Arsalan  M, Dar  F, Chan  A. Liver exchange: a pathway to increase access to transplantation. Accessed April 1, 2022. http://www.hhpronline.org/articles/2021/1/14/liver-exchange-a-pathway-to-increase-access-to-transplantation
3.
Henderson  D. On marriage, kidneys and the Economics Nobel. Wall Street Journal. October 15, 2012. Accessed March 5, 2022. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443675404578058773182478536
4.
Chan  A. Optimal liver exchange with equipoise. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://www.alexchan.net/_files/ugd/a47645_36e252f4df0c4707b6431b0559b03143.pdf
5.
Hwang  S, Lee  SG, Moon  DB,  et al.  Exchange living donor liver transplantation to overcome ABO incompatibility in adult patients.   Liver Transpl. 2010;16(4):482-490. doi:10.1002/lt.22017PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
6.
Patel  MS, Mohamed  Z, Ghanekar  A,  et al.  Living donor liver paired exchange: a North American first.   Am J Transplant. 2021;21(1):400-404. doi:10.1111/ajt.16137PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
7.
Braun  HJ, Torres  AM, Louie  F,  et al.  Expanding living donor liver transplantation: report of first US living donor liver transplant chain.   Am J Transplant. 2021;21(4):1633-1636. doi:10.1111/ajt.16396

 ********

Here's a Stanford story on this collaboration:

Stanford student devises liver exchange, easing shortage of organs. A rare three-way exchange of liver transplants in Pakistan was made possible with a new algorithm developed by a Stanford Medicine student.  by Nina Bai

"The liver exchange idea actually came out of a term paper in a first-year market design class at Stanford," Chan said.

"As he learned more about liver transplants, Chan realized there were important biological and ethical differences from kidney transplants. 

...

"Instead of just finding compatible swaps, we want to find swaps that prioitize the most urgent patients first in order to prevent the most deaths," Chan said.

*******

Here are some contemporaneous stories from March in the newspaper Dawn (now that the JAMA embargo on the story is lifted):

Mar 18, 2022 — A highly-trained team of the surgeons headed by PKLI Dean Prof Faisal Dar had performed liver transplants at the institute and other members ...

Astrobotic lander undergoes tests ahead of launch

Peregrine test

Astrobotic’s first lunar lander has passed a key set of acceptance tests, keeping the spacecraft on schedule for a launch in early 2023.

The post Astrobotic lander undergoes tests ahead of launch appeared first on SpaceNews.

NASA loses contact with ICON spacecraft

ICON

A NASA space science spacecraft launched three years ago has been out of contact with controllers for nearly two weeks after suffering some kind of technical problem.

The post NASA loses contact with ICON spacecraft appeared first on SpaceNews.

Chinese Industrial Policy is Failing

In Picking Winners? Government Subsidies and Firm Productivity in China, Branstetter, Li and Ren look at the effect of direct cash subsidies to Chinese firms.

Our results provide little evidence to support the view that government subsidies have been given to more productive firms or that they have enhanced the productivity of the Chinese listed firms. First, at the aggregate level, subsidies seem to be allocated to less productive firms, and the relative productivity of firms’ receiving these subsidies appears to decline further after disbursement. Second, using the categorized subsidy data, we find that neither subsidies promoting R&D and innovation promotion nor subsidies promoting industrial and equipment upgrading are positively associated with firms’ subsequent productivity growth. On the other hand, we find there is a positive association between subsidy and employment, both for aggregate and employment-related subsidies.

I appreciated this discussion of the earlier debate over Japanese industrial policy:

Drawing upon qualitative methods and largely anecdotal evidence, a group of noneconomists, business experts, and policymakers argued that Japan’s rapid recovery and robust growth after WWII could be explained by skillful industrial policy (Johnson, 1982; Prestowitz, 1988; Vogel, 1979) .10 Japan’s “government-led” economic model came to be viewed as a threat to U.S. prosperity by some participants in these debates. By the end of the 1980s, some policy makers and influential experts were calling for a policy of “containing Japan,” lest its unbalanced growth undermine the economy of the United States (Fallows, 1989).

Economists and more empirically minded social scientists in other disciplines viewed the claims of industrial policy efficacy with skepticism and suggested that Japan’s intervention in its economy tended to favor declining industries rather than growing ones (Calder, 1988; Saxonhouse, 1983).11 Eventually, the skeptics were able to bolster their claims with hard data demonstrating that the Japanese government had offered some degree of economic support to nearly all sectors, but that the preponderance of support had not gone to the sectors or firms with the fastest productivity growth. An important turning point in this debate came in the form of a careful econometric deconstruction of the notion that industrial policy drove Japan’s economic miracle published by Richard Beason and David Weinstein in the mid-1990s. This empirical analysis at the industry level found no relationship between productivity growth and the alleged instruments of industrial policy (Beason and Weinstein, 1996). As it turned out, the policy efforts to promote rising sectors championed by some elements of Japan’s bureaucracy were undermined by countervailing efforts to buttress the employment levels and solvency of politically connected but economically weak firms and industries.

Japan’s long period of economic outperformance came to an abrupt end in the early 1990s; after two decades of slow growth, few scholars now argue that Japanese industrial policy is a model worthy of emulation (Ito & Hoshi, 2020).

As I emphasized in my post, What Operation Warp Speed Did, Didn’t and Can’t Do, you need a lot more than “market failure” to have a successful government subsidy program of firms–you need massive externalities and precise, well understood targets. The garden-variety market failure that can be shown on a blackboard isn’t enough, in part because such arguments often underestimate the market and in part because they overestimate government.

Hat tip: Caleb Watney who offers some useful comments.

The post Chinese Industrial Policy is Failing appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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A debugging manifesto

Hello! I’ve been working on a zine about debugging for the last 6 months with my friend Marie, and one of the problems we ran into was figuring out how to explain the right attitude to take when debugging.

We ended up writing a short debugging manifesto to start the zine with, and I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Here it is as an image, and as text (with some extra explanations)

1. Inspect, don’t squash

When you run into a bug, the natural instinct is to try to fix it as fast as possible. And of course, sometimes that’s what you have to do – if the bug is causing a huge production incident, you have to mitigate it quickly before diving into figuring out the root cause.

But in my day to day debugging, I find that it’s generally more effective (and faster!) to leave the bug in place, figure out exactly what’s gone wrong, and then fix it after I’ve understood what happened.

Trying to fix it or add workarounds without fully understanding what happened usually ends up just leaving me more confused.

2. Being stuck is temporary

Sometimes I get really demoralized when debugging and it feels like I’ll NEVER make progress.

I have to remind myself that I’ve fixed a lot of bugs before, and I’ll probably fix this one too :)

3. Trust nobody and nothing

Sometimes bugs come from surprising sources! For example, in I think I found a Mac kernel bug? I describe how, the first time I tried to write a program for Mac OS, I had a bug in my program that was caused by a Mac OS kernel bug.

This was really surprising (usually the operating system is not at fault!!), but sometimes even normally-trustworthy sources are wrong. Even it’s a popular library, your operating system, the official documentation, or an extremely smart and competent coworker!

4. It’s probably your code

That said, almost all of the time the problem is not “there’s a bug in Mac OS”. I can only speak for myself, but 95% of the time something is going wrong with my program, it’s because I did something silly.

So it’s important to look for the problem in your own code first before trying to blame some external source.

5. Don’t go it alone

I’ve learned SO much by asking coworkers or friends for help with debugging. I think it’s one of the most fun ways to collaborate because you have a specific goal, and there are tons of opportunities to share information like:

  • how to use a specific debugging tool (“here’s how to use GDB to inspect the memory here….”)
  • how a computer thing works (“hey, can you explain CORS?”)
  • similar past bugs (“I’ve seen this break in X way in the past, maybe it’s that?”)

6. There’s always a reason

This one kind of speaks for itself: sometimes it feels like things are just randomly breaking for no reason, but that’s never true.

Even if something truly weird is happening (like a hardware problem), that’s still a reason.

7. Build your toolkit

I’ve written a LOT about my love for debugging tools like tcpdump, strace, and more on this blog.

To fix bugs you need information about what your program is doing, and to get that information sometimes you need to learn a new tool.

Also, sometimes you need to build your own better tools, like by improving your test suite, pretty printing, etc.

8. It can be an adventure

As you probably know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I love debugging and I’ve learned a lot from doing it. You get to learn something new! Sometimes you get a great war story to tell! What could be more fun?

I really think of debugging as an investment in my future knowledge – if something is breaking, it’s often because there’s something wrong in my mental model, and that’s an opportunity to learn and make sure that I know it for next time.

Of course, not all bugs are adventures (that off-by-one error I was debugging today certainly did not feel like a fun adventure). But I think it’s important to (as much as you can) reflect on your bugs and see what you can learn from them.

Leaked Signing Keys Are Being Used to Sign Malware

A bunch of Android OEM signing keys have been leaked or stolen, and they are actively being used to sign malware.

Łukasz Siewierski, a member of Google’s Android Security Team, has a post on the Android Partner Vulnerability Initiative (AVPI) issue tracker detailing leaked platform certificate keys that are actively being used to sign malware. The post is just a list of the keys, but running each one through APKMirror or Google’s VirusTotal site will put names to some of the compromised keys: Samsung, LG, and Mediatek are the heavy hitters on the list of leaked keys, along with some smaller OEMs like Revoview and Szroco, which makes Walmart’s Onn tablets.

This is a huge problem. The whole system of authentication rests on the assumption that signing keys are kept secret by the legitimate signers. Once that assumption is broken, all bets are off:

Samsung’s compromised key is used for everything: Samsung Pay, Bixby, Samsung Account, the phone app, and a million other things you can find on the 101 pages of results for that key. It would be possible to craft a malicious update for any one of these apps, and Android would be happy to install it overtop of the real app. Some of the updates are from today, indicating Samsung has still not changed the key.

Tackling sexual harassment could bring sizeable economic dividends

New research puts a price tag on unpunished predation—and offers clues on how to deter abuse

Europe and America put a brave face on a growing economic rift

The transatlantic tandem is drifting towards a full-fledged subsidy race

For bond investors, every country is an emerging market now

It could take years for rich-world government bonds to become boring again

The great abandonment

The great abandonment | Aeon Videos

‘An opportunity to look within.’ How did Narendra Modi’s lockdown actually affect India’s millions of migrant workers?

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

The pharaoh’s trumpet

The pharaoh’s trumpet | Aeon Essays

The truly wondrous treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb are not made of gold. They are the mundane things of everyday life

- by Toby Wilkinson

Read at Aeon

A global electronics slump is driving East Asia to the wall

China’s zero-covid slowdown is only one factor troubling the region’s trade champions

Your estimates suck

Humans are terrible at estimating anything complicated that involves novel attempts at problem solving. So getting out of estimates and into appetites has been the single most important thing we have done for our software development process at 37signals. 

Instead of asking for a specific estimate to a specific solution, we start with rough-sketch version of the problem, and how we want to go about tackling it. But the specific scope, like what a screen should look like or how we implement it, is left open. We then say, you have six weeks to make a great version of that.

Think of it like a stop loss. If you’re in the stock market, and you’re like, I bought at 100, but if it goes down to 80, I’m out. I’m willing to spend 20 bucks on its way down, but then I’m done. Because it is so common to reach the end of an estimate, and go no, no, no, we’re 90% done. We just need the last 10%. Yeah, except there’s another 90% worth of effort in those last 10%. 

Nothing will clog down the momentum and motivation of a software development team like not being able to ship. And nothing will prevent you from shipping like having projects that continuously get pushed out because you want to have all your hopes and dreams happen inside of them. 

Then you'll feel like you cannot give up. And that is absolutely the worst position possible to be in, if you’re trying to make rational logical decisions about how to spend your resources. This state of "I gotta dig myself out of this hole". Stop digging.

But it’s also important not hear this, and think, well, just shipping anything, that’s the most important thing. Just push it out at all costs. Absolutely not. The thing you cut is scope, and if you have to cut too much scope, you cut the project. You don’t ship bad software. 

Adapted from the episode Your Estimates Suck that just hit The REWORK Podcast. Check it out.

The dream of bringing back Bell Labs

I just finished reading The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, by Jon Gertner. It’s a fun and fascinating book chock full of stories about the invention of the vacuum tube, the transistor, information theory, communications satellites, fiber-optic cable, and so on. The personalities really come to life — the pragmatic Mervin Kelly, the arrogant and paranoid William Shockley, the obsessive and curious Claude Shannon, the distractible and creative John Pierce. I highly recommend it.

That said, the book is also a bit frustrating, because it grasps at a general theory of collective innovation, but never quite reaches a conclusion. How much of breakthrough discovery is due to the team vs. the individual? How do incentives and organizational structure matter? How much of the success of Bell Labs was due to the luck of history versus the unique way the organization was set up? The scientists at Bell themselves grappled with these questions, but nobody has ever answered them conclusively.

The way America innovates has certainly changed since the mid 20th century. In a 2019 paper, the economists Ashish Arora, Sharon Belenzon, Andrea Patacconi and Jungkyu Suh document two major trends: the rise of university research, and the decline of corporate labs. Basically, businesses still spend a ton on R&D, but more and more of what they spend goes to development (getting innovations ready for market) than research itself.

Bell Labs is one of the iconic corporate labs, along with Xerox PARC, DuPont’s labs, a few others, whose decline illustrates the general trend.

The authors document two main reasons for the change. First, the government started supporting universities a lot, both with money, and with legal changes (especially the Bayh-Dole Act) that allowed universities to profit from licensing their research to private companies. Second, the maturation of the startup and venture capital ecosystem, increased competition, and a more tolerant government attitude towards acquisitions all pushed big companies to buy innovations rather than producing them in-house. Note the ambiguous effect of antitrust here — stronger antitrust promotes competition (as when Bell was broken up in 1982), while weaker antitrust lets companies substitute M&A for research.

The net result of these changes was to create a sort of supply chain for innovation — universities do the scientific research, startups and university spinoffs and mission-oriented government agencies like DARPA turn insights into inventions, and big companies acquire the inventions and focus on turning them into products. Here’s how the authors sum it up:

In summary, the new innovation ecosystem exhibits a deepening division of labor between universities that specialize in basic research, small start-ups converting promising new findings into inventions, and larger, more established firms specializing in product development and commercialization…Large firms therefore invest in scientific capability not so much to generate knowledge as to be effective buyers of knowledge.

From the standpoint of economic theory, this sort of supply chain makes a lot of sense. Research discoveries and fundamental inventions are public goods, because they have a strong tendency to leak out across organizational boundaries, making it impossible for whoever did the research to capture the monetary value. The transistor was invented (discovered?) at Bell Labs, by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley; how much of the total monetary value created by transistors was captured by those individuals, their research teams, or Bell itself? Very, very little of it. This means that private companies have very little monetary incentive to do basic research, which is why economists generally think basic research should be left to universities and the government (or, depending on which economists you ask, to quixotic rich people).

Arora et al. sound a note of caution, though. They point out several attractive features of big corporate labs that the new innovation supply chain might lack. First of all, while many university researchers focus on questions of general scientific interest (how the Universe was formed, for instance), corporate labs tended to focus on the creation of general-purpose technologies — things that had lots of pragmatic industrial uses, like transistors. The inflationary theory of cosmology and the invention of the transistor are both “basic research”, but their economic value is very very different. Second, corporate labs tend to be multi-disciplinary, pulling in researchers from a wide variety of fields and having them work together on projects, while university research — as anyone who has worked in academia knows all too well — tends to be very siloed by discipline.

For these reasons, universities may not be producing the research that would have the biggest economic benefit. Now, you might not care about this — after all, learning where the Universe came from is pretty cool! But at some point we have to face the fact that we’re spending more and more on research but getting only about the same amount of total economic benefit for all that spending:

At some point we should probably think about increasing the economic productivity of scientific research. The successes of Bell Labs and other big corporate labs in the mid 20th century has many people thinking that maybe this is an important missing piece of our modern innovation ecosystem.

Not completely missing, though. As Arora et al. point out, Google’s AI divisions have been an important driver of research in the machine learning space — an extremely important frontier. All told, the research output of Google AI, Google Brain, DeepMind, etc. has been truly staggering:

Source: MacroPolo

Big private companies (especially IBM) are also very active in quantum computing research. And some “startups” like SpaceX are big enough to do research in-house that pushes the boundaries of general-purpose technology instead of just making a quick buck. So Arora et al. are probably overstating the changes to America’s innovation structure a bit; as their own data shows, businesses still do quite a bit of research, even if not as much as before.

But could we bring back something as amazing as Bell Labs? Many people argue that Bell’s success was due to very unique conditions that we probably won’t see ever again. I’ll outsource this argument to Ilan Gur, the CEO of the UK’s science innovation agency ARIA, who laid it out in an interesting Twitter thread last January:

Gur argues that there’s just too much well-funded and widely distributed competition for research talent and discoveries these days for an organization like Bell Labs to dominate the landscape. He suggests that instead, we should focus on helping startups do deep fundamental innovation, like Moderna and BioNTech did with mRNA vaccines.

It’s a reasonable thesis, and I think there’s lots of value in deep-tech “super-startups” (a term I just invented) that put tons of money into trying to do fundamental research into mRNA, reusable rockets, aneutronic fusion, generative AI, solid-state Li-ion batteries, Crispr, and any number of other fundamental technologies. But there’s a natural limitation here, which is the whim of the market itself. We just saw a massive decline in tech stock prices. This led to a big crunch in startup funding, especially for expensive late-state startups. So far, software companies seem to have taken the brunt of the current crash, while deep-tech companies are doing OK. But given the natural difficulty of capitalizing on fundamental research discoveries (there’s that pesky public goods problem again!), it seems likely that deep-tech super-startups whose efforts will take many years to see fruition will be in the firing line at some point.

So I think there might still be a role for more Bell-style corporate labs in fields where it seems like there’s lots of important breakthrough research left to be done. In The Idea Factory, Gertner suggests two possible such fields: biotech, and energy. Let’s consider the second of these two.

The energy transition is one of the most important events of our time, both because of the need to avert climate catastrophe and because of the promise of ultra-cheap energy. Right now, while startups are trying to do some basic research in energy tech, most of the effort is being done by universities, government labs, or mission-focused government agencies like ARPA-E. But what if there was a Bell Labs for energy tech?

Google can fund AI research with the money from its quasi-monopoly in search advertising. But who would fund a giant high-class world-beating private lab system to do fundamental energy research? There are no big monopoly companies in the energy space — our big energy companies are all fossil fuel companies, and they’re spending their efforts on slowing the energy transition instead of speeding it up.

So here’s a wacky idea: What about a national electrical utility? Many utilities are already government-sanctioned monopolies at the city level, so the principle of natural monopolies in the energy space is well-established. And the intermittency of wind and solar means it might make sense to run new long-distance power lines between cities. So why not turn this task over to a national-level government-sanctioned utility monopoly, that would own the long-distance transmission lines and would also be allowed to invest in local generation capacity?

In fact, Bernie Sanders already suggested creating a government agency to do this, but that’s probably a political non-starter and would have questionable incentives as well. A sanctioned national utility company — call it Energy Bell — with profit margins limited by law, would be motivated by the profit motive — but with capped margins, the only way it could make profits would be to deliver American customers greater volumes of energy. So just as Bell’s driving mission was to connect the whole world, a monopoly energy company’s mission would be to provide more abundant energy to more Americans (with laws to make sure it’s mostly or entirely clean energy).

Meanwhile, the comfy position of a sanctioned monopoly would give Energy Bell the long time horizon to establish its own big corporate research lab, focused on solving deep fundamental scientific problems related to energy — solid-state batteries, batteries that don’t use lithium, aneutronic fusion, seasonal energy storage, solar panel and battery recycling, or whatever. And just to provide a little extra incentive, doing this research could be a condition of Energy Bell’s continued existence, written right into its charter.

And Energy Bell’s large scale could give it the money to hire many of the world’s best researchers in a number of disciplines and put them to work in multidisciplinary, cooperative ways. If we allowed Energy Bell to ignore the cap on employer-sponsored green cards, it would be even easier to assemble this super-team.

Anyway, I realize this is a wacky idea, and very unlikely to happen. We’re in an era of rising distrust of big monopolies, and lots of people in both industry and politics would likely resent a company like Energy Bell. On top of that, there are probably a bunch of technical problems with the idea that I haven’t yet thought of. But if we wanted to bring back something akin to the old Bell Labs, in an incredibly crucial area of fast-moving technology, I think this would be a promising way to do it.

Barring something like an Energy Bell, though, I agree with Ilan Gur that we’re unlikely to see something quite like Bell Labs in our lifetimes. The university-DARPA-startup innovation system is probably here to stay, and we should focus on finding ways to make this technological supply chain work in a more efficient, purposeful, and well-integrated way.


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Is publication bias worse in economics?

Publication selection bias undermines the systematic accumulation of evidence. To assess the extent of this problem, we survey over 26,000 meta-analyses containing more than 800,000 effect size estimates from medicine, economics, and psychology. Our results indicate that meta-analyses in economics are the most severely contaminated by publication selection bias, closely followed by meta-analyses in psychology, whereas meta-analyses in medicine are contaminated the least. The median probability of the presence of an effect in economics decreased from 99.9% to 29.7% after adjusting for publication selection bias. This reduction was slightly lower in psychology (98.9% −→55.7%) and considerably lower in medicine (38.0% −→ 27.5%). The high prevalence of publication selection bias underscores the importance of adopting better research practices such as preregistration and registered reports.

Here is the full article by František Bartoš, et.al, via Paul Blossom.

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From the comments, on CDC reform

These are the word of commentator Sure:

The reasons you cannot change the CDC have little to do with remote work the major issues are:

1. The people who staff the place could either make a lot more money doing something else or they believe they could. This means that they selected into working here and did so precisely because they like some combination of the present culture and the mission as presently understood. Asking them to change is going to be treated as something tantamount to taking a major pay cut at best.

2. It is overrun with academics. The director of NIOSH has 5 advanced degrees. And something like half the upper leadership has at least two runs through the academic gauntlet (granted the MPH is vastly easier than the MD or PhD) and pretty much all of them have reasonable output of academic papers. Many look at the CDC as complementary to an academic career and even the lifers have CVs at least compatible with going academic. This means a lot of the work product and setup is geared more toward publication, conference presentation, and deliberative work rather than rapid response.

3. The place has gone monocultural. Talking about the Obama era largely means talking about the old dinosaurs who retired out as the times changed. Since 2015, their political donations have been 99.94% to Democrats. This means that they get bogged down in the latest vanguard concerns of the Democratic base and that they are increasingly ignorant about and isolated from the bulk of the populace. Things that make some sense in dense urban corridors where few people get dirty at work make little sense in sparsely populated areas with significant morbidity burdens from work.

4. The hiring is completely incestuous. A huge number of low-level folks have parents who worked there or at related institutions (e.g. NIH) and even larger proportions involve folks who share educational pedigrees (universities, med schools, advisers). And even if a president wants to change this, there are civil service protections, congressional limitations (being a specifically delegated remit of authority), and of course that would require either Democrats to eat a lot of flak from their base among the educated or the Republicans signing up for a mass whipping for being “anti-science” and attribution of any cataclysm to this sort of personnel purge regardless of the real merits.

5. The activists are running rampant. Culturally competent pandemic management, as taught by the CDC, suggests that in a pandemic public health officials should not criticize cultural or ethnic leaders unnecessarily. They also suggest that you cannot shame or browbeat people into compliance with public health efforts, and that attempts to do so often backfire by having identity groups (religious, ethnic, national, etc.) respond to your nociceptive stimuli by rejecting previously accepted public health interventions. The worst messaging coming out of the CDC, particularly anonymously, violates all the guidelines I have seen the CDC issue when working overseas with MSF.

6. Doing your job well is boring. Most of the time you should be just making certain that resources (e.g. antibiotic stockpiles) are in place and that the same things that worked last time are ready to be implemented again (e.g. surge vaccination). And your ability to innovate and come up with something useful is pretty unlikely as there have been 50,000 people before you who give it their best stab. This leads to people “innovating” for the sake of “innovating”. This leads to people amplifying secondary concerns like “representation”, “equity”, “sustainability”, or the like. And a couple iterations of promoting the “innovators” over the maintainers will rapidly lead to atrophy of core capabilities. Zika or H1N1 represent less than 2% of the total work burden of the CDC, most of being agile is about maintaining capabilities when they are never used. And that is boring and at least currently not great for career advancement.

Remote work, in my best guess, would likely be a boon for the long-term flexibility of the CDC. Getting folks out of Atlanta and DC, having more capability for folks to work from the breadth of the country, and potentially even letting late career clinical folks have more access to the institution without having to disrupt their lives with a cross-country move are all to the good.

But until a bunch of people get fired, the CDC is unlikely to effectively change. On my more pessimistic days, I figure the real solution would involve burning the place to the ground.

Here is the original post.

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Analytics – Ruining Baseball Since . . . 1897

Players Rank Not Always Shown By His Fielding Average
The Ground He Covers and the Balls He Shirks Not Recorded

It always has been maintained that fielding averages are misleading in the estimate of the real abilities of players. That a player, for example, who leads the league at second base, according to the figures compiled by Mr. [Nick] Young [National League president] every fall, does so because he is a cautious player, who does not take the chances that other men in the position go after and who in doing so make errors that may put them far down in the list in the so-called "averages." On this account many close critics always watch the totals of chances recorded opposite each player's name and attach more importance to that column than they do to the "percentage of chances accepted," which is supposed to determine the rank of the player.

. . . In order to give some estimate of the work of the National League players in this particular, the Chicago Tribune has compiled a table of percentage of chances to the game accepted by players [chances per game] the last season, in accordance with the official figures given out by President Young. The worst defect about the table will be the fact that no allowance can be made for instances where players have participated in only part of a game.

The Sporting News, November 20, 1897

Thursday: Unemployment Claims

Mortgage RatesNote: Mortgage rates are from MortgageNewsDaily.com and are for top tier scenarios.

Thursday:
• At 8:30 AM ET, The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  The consensus is for 230 thousand initial claims, up from 225 thousand last week.

Walter Grinder has passed away, RIP

Meeting Walter at age 13 was a formative moment in my life, as he hooked me on the world of ideas.  Fortunately, Walter lived in Bogota, New Jersey at the time, and I was not so far away.  He was the first person to show me it was possible to have a life devoted to intellectual inquiry.  I looked forward to each meeting with Walter more than anything else, and I would never stop peppering him with questions about which books to read and which NYC bookstores to visit.  It also seemed impossibly cool to me that he had hung out with Camus and in addition visited Yugoslavia.  I saw him and thought, ‘I want to be some version of this.’

I remember Walter giving me an autographed copy of his edition of Albert Jay Nock.  Walter being purged by the Rothbardians.  Walter going off to study with David O’Mahony at the University of Cork and complaining about the telephone service.  Walter being CEO of the Institute for Humane Studies.  And Walter moving back to Menlo Park.  Walter also had a great family.

Not everything in Walter’s career went the way he wanted it to.  Still, Walter had a huge impact on many people, many of them successful and influential themselves.  We are a kind of secret club, we know who each other are, and this is a day we are all mourning.

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ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter “Improvement”: A million more miles of local traffic

ODOT’s proposed relocation of the I-5 Southbound off-ramp at the Rose Quarter will add 1.3 million miles of vehicle travel to local streets each year.

Moving the I-5 on ramp a thousand feet further south creates longer journeys for the 12,000 cars exiting the freeway at this ramp each day. 

The new ramp location requires extensive out-of-direction travel for all vehicles connecting to local streets. 

With more miles driven on local streets, and more turning movements at local intersections, hazards for all road users, but especially persons biking and walking, increase substantially.

More driving on neighborhood streets increases local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

In an effort to get more space to expand a proposed freeway cover, the Oregon Department of Transportation is proposing to move the southbound off ramp from I-5 at the Rose Quarter nearly half a mile south.  The new location’s awkward location in relation to the city’s established street grid creates a hazardous hairpin turn, and also lengthens the trips freeway exiting travelers will take, regardless of the direction they travel.

The underlying problem is that the major arterial streets leading away from the freeway are all considerably north of the new proposed off ramp location, meaning that all travelers will have to travel further to connect with these arterials than they do today.  Once they transit the hairpin turn, all vehicles have to travel northbound on Williams Avenue as far as N. Weidler in order to go east, and a block further to N. Broadway in order to go west.

We estimate that the additional travel associated with the new off-ramp location will result in more than a million additional miles of vehicle travel in the Rose Quarter neighborhood each year.

Estimating additional travel

Vehicles leaving I-5 can travel in four cardinal directions:  North on Williams Avenue, east on Weidler Avenue, west on Broadway, or south on Wheeler the two-way segment of Williams Avenue.  The new ramp configuration requires a longer and more convoluted routing to reach each of these arterials.

We’ve used Google maps compute distance function to compute the additional distance vehicles must travel from the proposed new I-5 southbound off-ramp to each of these streets.  Eastbound and northbound vehicles exiting I-5 southbound will have to travel an additional 1,000 feet from the new ramp location.  Westbound and southbound vehicles exiting I-5 southbound will have to travel an additional 2,000 feet from the new ramp location.  (We show the computation of the net added travel distances for each route in the maps below).

Data collected by the Oregon Department of Transportation show that about 12,530 vehicles per day exit Interstate 5 at the existing southbound off-ramp (Exit 302A).  ODOT’s data don’t differentiate traffic according to their turning movements subsequent to leaving the freeway.  For simplicity, we assume that one-fourth of this total exits in each of the four cardinal directions, or about 3,100 vehicles per direction.

The following table shows the additional distance traveled due to the proposed new I-5 southbound ramp location.  For example, about 3,133 vehicles traveling northbound travel an additional 1,000 feet each day, for total additional vehicle travel of about 3.1 million feet (or a little less than 600 miles).  Aggregated across all four cardinal directions, the new ramp location leads to an additional 18.8 million feet or 3,600 miles of vehicle travel per day in the Rose Quarter neighborhood.  On an annual basis, this works out to more than 1.3 million additional vehicle miles of travel.

Direction Traffic Added Distance (feet) Total Distance (feet)
North                                 3,133                      1,000              3,132,500
South                                 3,133                      2,000              6,265,000
East                                 3,133                      1,000              3,132,500
West                                 3,133                      2,000              6,265,000
Total                              12,530           18,795,000
Miles/Day                         3,600
Miles/Year              1,300,000

 

More Traffic, More Turns, More Crashes, More Pollution

Adding 1.3 million miles of vehicle travel to the already congested Rose Quarter area will have predictable negative effects on the environment, safety and walkability.  As we’ve noted, the ODOT’s plans call for closing some crosswalks, and cutting back corners on 13 blocks to create a wider turning radius to speed cars.  Those wider intersection will have longer crossing distances, and pose greater dangers for people walking in the neighborhood.  This problem is amplified by both the additional travel, and the increased number of turns required to leave the freeway to reach any arterial—and each turning movement creates additional dangers for pedestrians and cyclists.  These safety problems are in addition to the likely increase in crashes due to the dangerous hairpin turn exit created by the new I-5 southbound ramp location.

The increase in driving also means an increase in pollution.  Each mile of vehicle travel produces about 411 grams of greenhouse gases.  That means the added driving on local streets in the Rose Quarter will add more than 500 tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year.  There is no indication that the project’s Environmental Assessment contains any analysis of this increase in greenhouse gases as a result of this project.

A convoluted route to the Moda Center

Many Portland residents visit the Rose Quarter to attend concerts and sporting events.  Many of them will have to travel much further, and cope with much more local traffic as a result of the ramp re-orientation.  The new ramp configuration creates a very convoluted route for traffic traveling from I-5 south to the facilities parking garages.  From I-5 South, vehicles have to travel north on Williams, then west on Broadway and then south of Vancouver, traveling a distance of almost half a mile and traveling through five intersections to reach the parking garages.

Computing added travel distances

North and East Bound Added Travel Distance:  1,000 feet per trip (net).  Vehicles exiting I-5 and proceed eastbound on NE Weidler must travel an  1,500 feet to reach the intersection of NE Weidler and N.Williams,.  Similarly, vehicles traveling northbound on Williams must also travel an additional 1,500 feet to reach this same intersection.  These vehicles save approximately 500 feet of travel that would otherwise occur traveling south on N. Vancouver and East on N. Weidler to reach this same intersection.  The net additional distance per northbound and eastbound trip is 1,000 feet (1,500 feet via the proposed new ramp location compared to 500 feet for the existing ramp location).

Distances for northbound- and East Bound Trips (New Ramp):   1,500 feet

Distance saved by northbound and eastbound trips (500 feet)

 

Westbound and southbound added trip distance:  2,000 feet.  Vehicles exiting I-5 and proceed westbound on N. Broadway must travel an  2000 feet to reach the intersection of N .Broadway and N. Vancouver,.  Similarly, vehicles traveling southbound on Vancouver must also travel an additional 1,500 feet to reach this same intersection.  All of this distance is in addition to the distance that those same movements would require at the existing intersection location.  (Note that because all traffic exiting I-5 southbound must travel north on Williams; there is no option to directly continue southbound on NE Wheeler, because that movement is blocked by traffic traveling onto the southbound I-5 on-ramp, immediately adjacent to the new relocated off-ramp).

A

It's time to stop using Python 3.7

Upgrading to new software versions is work, and work that doesn’t benefit your software’s users. Users care about features and bug fixes, not how up-to-date you are.

So it’s perhaps not surprising how many people still use Python 3.7. As of December 2022, almost 30% of packages downloaded from PyPI were for Python 3.7. This includes automated downloads as part of CI runs, so it doesn’t mean 3.7 is used in 30% of applications, but that’s still a lot of people using an old version of Python.

Still, there is only so much time you can delay upgrading, and for Python 3.7, the time to upgrade is over the next few months. Python 3.7 is reaching its end of life as of June 2023.

No more bug fixes.

No more security fixes.

“He’s dead, Jim.”

Still not convinced? Let’s see why you want to upgrade.

Read more...

Defense Innovation Unit seeks commercial options to deploy satellites in deep space

The Defense Innovation Unit is seeking proposals for commercial services to deploy and operate payloads in outer space beyond Earth orbit

The post Defense Innovation Unit seeks commercial options to deploy satellites in deep space appeared first on SpaceNews.

NASA and Boeing change SLS core stage assembly process

SLS engine section transport

NASA and Boeing are changing how they assemble the core stage of the Space Launch System, moving some of the final integration work to the Kennedy Space Center.

The post NASA and Boeing change SLS core stage assembly process appeared first on SpaceNews.

Four Quick Links for Wednesday Afternoon

Another cover that's better than the original: the Mr Little Jeans version of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. [soundcloud.com]

File this one under covers that are better than the originals: HAIM's version of Tame Impala's 'Cause I'm A Man. [soundcloud.com]

More on blower door tests, which measure air leakage from buildings. "It has been estimated that based on standard building practices, air leakage accounts for about 1/3 of the total heat loss of a home." [ecohome.net]

A Modern Pyramid of Energy Conservation: the recommended order of steps to upgrade your home for energy efficiency. #1 thing? Employ "The Red Door of Truth" (aka the blower door test) to see where air is leaking in/out of your house. [treehugger.com]

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OneWeb readies for 15th launch, and first with SpaceX

Forty OneWeb satellites mounted on a dispenser before encapsulation inside a SpaceX payload fairing. Credit: OneWeb

OneWeb’s broadband network will get a boost from SpaceX, which operates its own internet constellation, with the launch of 40 satellites on top of a Falcon 9 rocket set for Thursday from Kennedy Space Center.

The 40 satellites are packaged inside the nose cone of the Falcon 9 rocket undergoing final preparations for rollout to pad 39A at Kennedy. Once the rocket arrives at the pad, it will be raised vertical for final countdown preparations ahead of liftoff set for 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT).

There is a 90% chance of favorable weather for launch Thursday, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. Forecasters predict mostly clear skies for the sunset launch attempt, with mild temperatures and north winds.

The launch was delayed from earlier in the week as SpaceX prepared the Falcon 9 launcher inside a hangar a quarter-mile south of pad 39A.

SpaceX’s launch team will turn over control of the Falcon 9 countdown to an automated computer sequencer 35 minutes before liftoff. About a million pounds of super-chilled, densified kerosene and liquid oxygen will be pumped into the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket ahead of the 5:27 p.m. launch time.

The Falcon 9’s on-board computer will take control of the countdown a minute before launch, overseeing final pressurization of propellant tanks and the engine startup sequence. The rocket’s nine Merlin engines will flash to life and throttle up to full power, and assuming they pass a final health check, hold-down clamps will open to release the Falcon 9 to begin its climb off the launch pad.

The rocket will head south-southeast from Kennedy Space Center on a trajectory over the Atlantic Ocean, then turn south to fly parallel to Florida’s East Coast. The southerly launch trajectory will allow the Falcon 9 to place the 40 OneWeb satellites into a polar orbit.

SpaceX launched its first polar orbit mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in 2020, using the southern launch corridor for the first time since 1969. The OneWeb mission Thursday will be SpaceX’s eighth polar orbit launch from Florida, and the first to take off from pad 39A, the historic seaside facility originally used for Saturn 5 rocket launches in the Apollo moon program.

The 40 OneWeb satellites are stacked on a vertical mount inside the Falcon 9’s payload fairing for the ride into orbit. The Falcon 9’s first stage booster will fire its nine engines for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, then shut down and fall away from the rocket’s upper stage. While the upper stage lights its single engine to accelerate to orbital velocity, the first stage will reignite three of its engines for a “boost back” burn to zero out its downrange velocity and head for landing at Cape Canaveral.

The booster, making its fourth flight to space, will perform two more retrorocket firings with a subset of its engines to slow for landing. Touchdown at Landing Zone 1 is expected 7 minutes and 45 seconds after launch. The rocket landing will be accompanied by double sonic booms that could be heard across Florida’s Space Coast.

The upper stage will complete its first burn eight-and-a-half minutes into the flight to place the OneWeb satellites into a preliminary parking orbit. A three-second restart of the upper stage’s Merlin Vacuum engine is scheduled 55 minutes after launch to circularize the orbit before deployment of the 40 OneWeb satellites.

The satellites will separate in groups over a half-hour, with the final set of spacecraft expected to separate from the rocket about 1 hour and 29 minutes into the missions.

The OneWeb satellites, each weighing about 325 pounds (147.5 kilograms at launch), will deploy solar panels and activate xenon ion thrusters to maneuver into their operational orbit at an altitude of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers).

OneWeb’s satellites are built in a factory just outside the gates of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida by a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space. The satellites are are designed to beam low-latency broadband internet signals to customers around the world. Based in London, OneWeb is one of several operators either already launching large fleets of internet satellites, or planning to begin launches soon.

SpaceX has launched more than 3,500 Starlink internet satellites using the company’s own Falcon 9 rockets.

OneWeb has launched 464 satellites of a planned first-generation constellation of 648 spacecraft using 13 Russian Soyuz rockets purchased through Arianespace, the French launch services provider, and one flight on an Indian GLSV Mk.3 rocket. Amazon plans to launch its first two prototype internet satellites of a planned constellation of 3,236 spacecraft next year on the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket.

A SpaceX Falcon booster returns to Landing Zone 1 on a mission earlier this year. Credit: SpaceX

OneWeb’s launch plans were interrupted earlier this year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Arianespace was on the hook with OneWeb for six more Soyuz launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, including a 14th launch that was set to take off in March. But Russia’s space agency set conditions on the mission after rolling the rocket and the OneWeb satellites to a launch pad at Baikonur, including a demand that the UK government give up its stake in OneWeb.

The UK government declined, and OneWeb announced March 3 it was suspending launches from Baikonur. OneWeb reported a loss of $229.2 million on its financial statements as a result of the termination of the planned Soyuz launch in March. The financial charge also covers losses associated with the postponement of subsequent Soyuz missions, and the loss of 36 satellites stranded in Kazakhstan and not returned to OneWeb by Russia, which runs the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Less than a month after Soyuz launches were suspended, OneWeb announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch some of its remaining satellites. OneWeb finalized a similar agreement with New Space India Limited, or NSIL, the commercial arm of India’s space agency, for launches on Indian rockets.

The contract with SpaceX was surprising to many satellite industry watchers because OneWeb is an indirect competitor in broadband market. SpaceX sells Starlink service directly to consumers, while OneWeb sells to enterprises and internet service providers to provide connectivity for entire businesses or communities.

Including Thursday’s mission, OneWeb has five launches remaining to finish deploying its first-generation broadband constellation. Four of them are booked on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, and OneWeb has one more launch reserved with NSIL for another GSLV Mk.3 launch next year.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

3D Image Capture Just Got Much Easier

Neural Radiance Fields (NeRFs) is a relatively new technique that generates well-lit, complex 3D views from 2D images. If you’ve seen behind-the-scenes looks at how image/motion capture is traditionally done, you know how time-consuming and resource intensive it can be. As this video from Corridor Crew shows, NeRFs changes the image capture game significantly. The ease with which they play around with the technology to produce professional-looking effects in very little time is pretty mind-blowing. (via waxy)

Tags: 3D   artificial intelligence   video

Cryogenics specialist orders first satellite for detecting methane leaks

Absolut Group, a French cryogenic technology provider, said Dec. 7 it has ordered a demo nanosatellite for a constellation that would use sensors at very low temperatures to detect greenhouse gas leaks.

The post Cryogenics specialist orders first satellite for detecting methane leaks appeared first on SpaceNews.

Links 12/7/22

Links for you. Science:

Two minerals never before been seen on Earth found inside 17-ton meteorite
In praise of research in fundamental biology
COVID-19 and Excess All-Cause Mortality in the US and 20 Comparison Countries, June 2021-March 2022
Shifts in global mobility dictate the synchrony of SARS-CoV-2 epidemic waves
Ashkenazi Jews Have Become More Genetically Similar Over Time
A low-cost, open-source evolutionary bioreactor and its educational use

Other:

Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism (excellent; made similar points here and here)
Which medieval Jewish stories must we tell? Recent studies of Jewish bodies emphasize violence, and in this era of rising antisemitism that feels important. But is it also too limiting, making our whole history of these people a story of loss?
Why some tech CEOs are rooting for Elon Musk: They’re skeptical of their workers, too.
Robot Landlords Are Buying Up Houses
Gambling On A Post Senate Career
The GOP Elite Are Getting into Some Weird Shit. Militant Catholicism for Example.
Uh, Politico? Biden didn’t make Marjorie Taylor Greene “the face of the GOP” — Republicans did
The Climate Villains of the Rail Strike
Railroad Engineer on the Imposed Contract: “It Really Fell Short of Railroad Workers’ Needs”
Why Are Middle-Aged Men Missing From the Labor Market?
On the Wrong Track: Why Biden Abandoned Rail Workers
L.A. County COVID surge raises prospect of return to indoor masking order
St. Louis Can Banish People From Entire Neighborhoods. Police Can Arrest Them if They Come Back.
A 1957 photo of Jerry Jones reminds us how recent America’s past is
More Republicans Died Than Democrats after COVID-19 Vaccines Came Out
Sam Bankman-Fried, Effective Altruism, and the Question of Complicity
Their wealth was built on slavery. Now a new fortune lies underground.
How Did Star Wars Get Serious?
Winners From the Midterms? The Supreme Court’s Right Wing.
Doctors Should Break the Law to Offer Abortions Sometimes, Says New Guidance From Medical Leaders
Tax filing websites have been sending users’ financial information to Facebook
You will never be as cool as this gorilla.
Elon Musk doesn’t believe in Free Speech
Blockbuster thread reveals that Twitter had content moderation policies that applied to trivial pseudo-scandal

NDAA compromise bill wants more focus on satellite protection, responsive launch

A bipartisan compromise version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act released overnight on Dec. 6 directs DoD to figure out a strategy to protect military satellites from threats in orbit.

The post NDAA compromise bill wants more focus on satellite protection, responsive launch appeared first on SpaceNews.

Worldwinds

A counter-intuitive feature of wind power is that it is usable regardless of the direction the wind is blowing, so long as it is sufficiently steady and you have the right technology. A windmill that can pivot, or a sailboat, can make use of any kind of steady wind. A sailboat can sail in any […]

Stephen Hawking's Party for Time Travellers

Steven Hawking came up with a simple and clever way of seeing if time travel is possible. On June 28, 2009, he threw a party for time travellers from the future…but didn’t advertise it until after the party was already over.

In an effort to improve the chances of the party invite being noticed by future generations, Peter Dean, working with approval from Hawking, has made this gorgeous hand-printed poster of the party invitation:

Hawking Party Poster

There’s also a smaller less-expensive version of the poster in grey and a fetching yellow/orange.

Tags:design    Peter Dean    Stephen Hawking    time    time travel    video   

Recession Watch

The recession callers were back in the first half of 2022, and some like ARK's Cathie Wood and Home Depot's Ken Langone claimed the US was already in a recession.   I disagreed and noted I wasn't even on recession watch!

Now it seems like most forecasts are for a recession in 2023.   My answer is: Maybe.

Way back in 2013, I wrote a post "Predicting the Next Recession. This post was in response to several recession forecasts (that were also incorrect).  In that 2013 post, I wrote:
The next recession will probably be caused by one of the following (from least likely to most likely):

3) An exogenous event such as a pandemic, significant military conflict, disruption of energy supplies for any reason, a major natural disaster (meteor strike, super volcano, etc), and a number of other low probability reasons. All of these events are possible, but they are unpredictable, and the probabilities are low that they will happen in the next few years or even decades.
emphasis added
Unfortunately, in 2020, one of those low probability events happened (pandemic), and that led to a recession in 2020.
2) Significant policy error. Two examples: not reaching a fiscal agreement and going off the "fiscal cliff" probably would have led to a recession, and Congress refusing to "pay the bills" would have been a policy error that would have taken the economy into recession. 
Refusing to "pay the bills" (not raising the debt ceiling), would be a policy error - but that seems unlikely (you never know).
1) Most of the post-WWII recessions were caused by the Fed tightening monetary policy to slow inflation. I think this is the most likely cause of the next recession. Usually, when inflation starts to become a concern, the Fed tries to engineer a "soft landing", and frequently the result is a recession.
And this most common cause of a recession is the current concern.  Since inflation picked up, mostly due to the pandemic (stimulus spending, supply constraints, WFH impacts on household formation) and due to the invasion of Ukraine, the Fed has embarked on a tightening cycle to slow inflation.   

The Fed cannot ease pandemic related supply constraints (except by curbing demand), and the Fed cannot stop the war.  So, there is a possibility that the Fed will tighten too much and that will lead to a "hard landing" (aka recession).

The key will be to watch housing.  Housing is the main transmission mechanism for Fed policy.   One of my favorite models for business cycle forecasting uses new home sales (also housing starts and residential investment).   I also look at the yield curve, but I've found new home sales is generally more useful.  (See my post in 2019: Don't Freak Out about the Yield Curve)

For the economy, what I focus on is single family starts and new home sales.   For the bottoms and tops of key housing activity, here is a graph of Single-family housing starts, New Home Sales, and Residential Investment (RI) as a percent of GDP.

Note: The pandemic has distorted the economic data, and as I've noted many times, we can't be a slave to any model.

Starts, new home sales, residential Investment Click on graph for larger image.

The arrows point to some of the earlier peaks and troughs for these three measures - and the most recent peak.

The purpose of this graph is to show that these three indicators generally reach peaks and troughs together. Note that Residential Investment is quarterly and single-family starts and new home sales are monthly.

New home sales and single-family starts turned down last year, but that was partly due to the huge surge in sales during the pandemic - and then rebounded somewhat.   Now both new home sales and single-family starts have turned down in response to higher mortgage rates.   Residential investment has also peaked.

YoY Change New Home SalesThe second graph shows the YoY change in New Home Sales from the Census Bureau.  Currently new home sales (based on 3-month average) are down 13% year-over-year.

Note: the New Home Sales data is smoothed using a three month centered average before calculating the YoY change. The Census Bureau data starts in 1963.

Some observations:

1) When the YoY change in New Home Sales falls about 20%, usually a recession will follow. An exception for this data series was the mid '60s when the Vietnam buildup kept the economy out of recession.   Another exception was in late 2021 - we saw a significant YoY decline in new home sales related to the pandemic and the surge in new home sales in the second half of 2020.  I ignored that pandemic distortion.

Also note that the sharp decline in 2010 was related to the housing tax credit policy in 2009 - and was just a continuation of the housing bust.

2) It is also interesting to look at the '86/'87 and the mid '90s periods. New Home sales fell in both of these periods, although not quite 20%. As I noted in earlier posts, the mid '80s saw a surge in defense spending and MEW that more than offset the decline in New Home sales. In the mid '90s, nonresidential investment remained strong.

If the Fed tightening cycle will lead to a recession, we should see housing turn down first (new home sales, single family starts, residential investment).  This has happened, but this usually leads the economy by a year or more.  So, we might be looking at a recession in 2023.

There are other indicators too - such as the yield curve and heavy truck sales - but mostly I'll be watching housing.  And clearly housing is in a deep recession.   

I'm now on recession watch for 2023 (not predicting a recession yet - so much depends on inflation and the Fed).   Best to all.

iOS 16.2 Limits AirDrop’s ‘Everyone’ Option to 10 Minutes

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

Last month, however, Apple made a change to this setting, starting with iPhone users in China. In iOS 16.1.1 and iOS 16.2 beta 2 in China, the “Everyone” option could only be enabled for 10 minutes. After that 10-minute period lapsed, the AirDrop setting would change back to “Contacts Only.”

Apple drew criticism for this change, as protesters in China had been using AirDrop to spread posters and other content in opposition to Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. The Chinese government is believed to have made the change request to Apple, and Apple complied with that request.

At the time, Apple also said it would expand this restriction for AirDrop globally starting in 2023. The company, however, appears to have expedited this timeline. Starting with iOS 16.2 RC today, the new restriction on the “Everyone” option for AirDrop is now in place globally.

I’ve had AirDrop set to accept drops from everyone for a while, and never encountered any weirdos, but stories like this one regarding nude photos being AirDropped anonymously on a Southwest flight are common. I wonder, though, whether “Everyone all the time” should have remained an option alongside “Everyone for 10 minutes” — it does seem like some people (schools for example) make good use of keep AirDrop open always.

 ★ 

Joanna Stern Interviews Craig Federighi Regarding New iCloud Security Features

At least two exclusive tidbits in this interview (News+ link):

The changes represent a new potential setback for law-enforcement officials. Last year, Apple proposed software for the iPhone that would identify child sexual-abuse material on the iPhone. Apple now says it has stopped development of the system, following criticism from privacy and security researchers who worried that the software could be misused by governments or hackers to gain access to sensitive information on the phone.

Mr. Federighi said Apple’s focus related to protecting children has been on areas like communication and giving parents tools to protect children in iMessage. “Child sexual abuse can be headed off before it occurs,” he said. “That’s where we’re putting our energy going forward.”

Through its parental-controls software, Apple can notify parents who opt in if nude photos are sent or received on a child’s device.

So the controversial CSAM fingerprint-hashing project for iCloud Photos has been shelved. A lot of us saw that project as a precursor to offering end-to-end encryption for iCloud Photos. It is very good news that Apple forged ahead with E2E encyption for Photos without it.

The new encryption system, which will be tested by early users starting Wednesday, will roll out as an option in the U.S. by year’s end, and then worldwide including China in 2023, Mr. Federighi said.

In the video — which is also available on YouTube — Federighi is slightly circumspect about China, saying only that Apple expects it to roll out to all customers around the world next year, but quips that he hasn’t personally heard from the Chinese government about it.

 ★ 

Apple Announces Advanced Data Protection for iCloud — E2E Encryption for Backups, Photos, and More

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today introduced three advanced security features focused on protecting against threats to user data in the cloud, representing the next step in its ongoing effort to provide users with even stronger ways to protect their data. With iMessage Contact Key Verification, users can verify they are communicating only with whom they intend. With Security Keys for Apple ID, users have the choice to require a physical security key to sign in to their Apple ID account. And with Advanced Data Protection for iCloud, which uses end-to-end encryption to provide Apple’s highest level of cloud data security, users have the choice to further protect important iCloud data, including iCloud Backup, Photos, Notes, and more.

All three announcements are noteworthy and good news, but to me, Advanced Data Protection for iCloud is the big one. Users who opt in will now get end-to-end encryption for backups, Photos, and Notes — everything in iCloud other than email, contacts, and calendars (the open standards for which preclude end-to-end encryption).

Says Apple:

For users who opt in, Advanced Data Protection keeps most iCloud data protected even in the case of a data breach in the cloud.

Unmentioned is that Advanced Data Protection will also preclude Apple from handing over unencrypted backups to law enforcement. Turn on Advanced Data Protection and Apple will no longer hold keys to that data. It’s off by default, primarily, I believe, for customer support reasons. With standard iCloud data protection, customer data is encrypted in transit and in storage on iCloud’s servers, but Apple holds keys that can be used for recovery in case a customer loses access to their account. Those same keys held by Apple can also be used to comply with search warrants.

This has been a long time coming.

 ★ 

MarsEdit 5.0

Daniel Jalkut, writing for the Red Sweater Software blog:

MarsEdit 5 features a beautiful new icon, a “Microposting” feature for streamlined short-form blogging, enhanced plain-text editing with built-in Markdown syntax highlighting, a completely rebuilt rich text editor based on Apple’s latest WebKit2 technologies, and a variety of nuanced improvements to make your blogging workflow smoother, and more enjoyable than ever.

MarsEdit is one of the few apps I consider essential for my work. I’ve posted over 32,000 items to Daring Fireball in the 20 years I’ve been writing it, and I’d wager nearly 30,000 of them have gone through MarsEdit. Yet MarsEdit hasn’t offered Markdown syntax highlighting until now. That sounds weird, perhaps, but one of my primary design goals when creating Markdown way back when was to stick to syntax that looked good and remained utterly readable as good old-fashioned plain text. (Jason Snell and I discussed this at length during my guest appearance on Upgrade last week.)

That said, I’m delighted by MarsEdit 5’s Markdown support, which includes not just syntax coloring but syntax styling — italicized text is rendered in italic, bold text in bold. Worth the wait to see MarsEdit support Markdown so well.

 ★ 

Inflation is falling—but not enough

Central bankers have a long way to go before they hit their targets

Four Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

A recently rediscovered archive of photos of artists Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana, taken by William John Kennedy. [theguardian.com]

A few people I know will be happy with this news: Matt Lucas is stepping down as co-host of The Great British Bake Off. [theguardian.com]

The Fall of Númenor is a new book of J.R.R. Tolkien's collected writings about the Second Age of Middle-earth and includes stories that overlap with the narrative of The Rings of Power series on Amazon. [bookshop.org]

Mari Andrew on the difference between Solitude Food, Lonely Food, and Sad Food. "Few Solitude Foods are better than a bucket of popcorn to oneself in the back of a movie theater on a rainy weekday afternoon." [theatlantic.com]

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Wednesday assorted links

1. Are conservative Democrats the least tolerant group?

2. Burke on philosophy and learning.  And good FT piece on India taking off.

3. Mokyr reviews DeLong.

4. Best art books of 2022?

5. Is there a holiday suicide myth?

6. Some economic estimates of the cost of running ChatGPT.  And all sorts of stuff about ChatGPT.

7. Profile of Alexandra Botez.

8. AI tries to invent new food dishes.

The post Wednesday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

Comments

 

Blue Origin and Dynetics bidding on second Artemis lunar lander

Dynetics lander

Teams led by Blue Origin and Dynetics, runners-up in NASA’s first competition to develop a lander to transport astronauts to the lunar surface, have submitted proposals for a NASA competition to select a second lander.

The post Blue Origin and Dynetics bidding on second Artemis lunar lander appeared first on SpaceNews.

The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg

cover of The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg

Activist Greta Thunberg is coming out with a new book about the climate crisis called The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions (kindle).

In The Climate Book, Greta Thunberg has gathered the wisdom of over one hundred experts — geophysicists, oceanographers and meteorologists; engineers, economists and mathematicians; historians, philosophers and indigenous leaders — to equip us all with the knowledge we need to combat climate disaster. Alongside them, she shares her own stories of demonstrating and uncovering greenwashing around the world, revealing how much we have been kept in the dark. This is one of our biggest challenges, she shows, but also our greatest source of hope. Once we are given the full picture, how can we not act? And if a schoolchild’s strike could ignite a global protest, what could we do collectively if we tried?

The book is already out in Europe (I actually included the European cover above because, unsurprisingly, it’s better than the US cover), but will be released in the US in February.

Tags: books   climate crisis   Greta Thunberg   The Climate Book

1st Look at Local Housing Markets in November

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: 1st Look at Local Housing Markets in November

A brief excerpt:
This is the first look at local markets in November. I’m tracking about 35 local housing markets in the US. Some of the 35 markets are states, and some are metropolitan areas. I’ll update these tables throughout the month as additional data is released.

Closed sales in November were mostly for contracts signed in September and October. Mortgage rates moved higher in September, and 30-year mortgage rates were over 7% for most of October (no points), and that likely impacted closed sales in November and December.
...
30 year Mortgage 10 year TreasuryIn November, sales were down 45.7%. In October, these same markets were down 39.1% YoY Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).

Note that in November 2022, there were the same number of selling days as in November 2021, so the SA decline will be similar to the NSA decline. And this suggests another step down in sales!

Many more local markets to come!
There is much more in the article. You can subscribe at https://calculatedrisk.substack.com/

Tackling inequality from the demand side

We often think about inequality in terms of supply of wealth to the wealthy. Interest rate declines contribute to inequality because they cause the real estate and financial assets held by the rich to appreciate. Monopoly contributes to inequality because it enables the owners of dominant firms to extract rents from the rest of us, increasing their already large hordes. To reduce inequality, we could break up monopolies, or stop enabling them with ever expanding “intellectual property rights”. We could get rid of the carried interest loophole that lets hedge fund plutocrats pay very low tax rates on their labor earnings, or get rid of the tax-preference for capital income entirely.

Trying to suppress inequality by identifying wealth flows to the already rich and blunting their supply is God’s work. But it risks a certain whack-a-mole quality. You fix this tax loophole, the accountants come up with that one. The rich are clever, or at least they hire clever people, and they have lots of resources. Also, the rich create hostage situations to protect their wealth flows. For example, by preventing the enactment of generous automatic stabilizers by which the state would stimulate the economy through downturns, the rich ensure that the only way to prevent welfare-catastrophic employment losses is for the central bank to collapse interest rates and bid up the price of the financial assets and real estate, which the rich very disproportionately own. If you try to stop the rich getting richer, the story goes, you will just hurt the poor and marginalized. And the story is often true! Because the rich organize our institutions so that it will be true!

Staunching flows of wealth that the rich “entrepreneurially” invent, then assiduously protect, is like fixing a leaky roof by putting your hands on the cracks. You run out of hands pretty fast. We should think a lot more in terms of suppressing inequality from the demand side. What would it take for the very rich not to want to get richer?

I have no intention to address deep questions about human nature here. Are we in fact homo economicus, innately and insatiably greedy? Who knows. Even if we are not, I think we can presume that there exist people, whether they are most of us or just a few sociopaths, who will behave as if they are insatiably greedy. And once there are such humans, if they succeed, it sets off arms races. We have to compete, for essential positional goods, for zero-sum insurance against systematic risk.

I don’t know whether, in some deep sense, we can make people want money less or not. But we can change the legal environment so that the things people do to augment their hordes come with lower payoffs and higher risks. The rich then come to behave as if they want money less.

The classic example is the 90%+ top tax rates that prevailed for much of the period between FDR and JFK. The most common critique of that policy is it didn’t raise a lot of money, as very few people ever paid those rates. Why did no one pay those rates? Because it was dumb to earn incomes into a tax bracket from which funds would just be confiscated. So the rich, so good at gaming to pay themselves more money, also proved adept at gaming to pay themselves less. They behaved as if they were less greedy, regardless of whether in some deeper sense they were or were not.

During this period, the wealthy left funds in firms rather than realizing incomes. With the funds that accumulated, managers bought perquisites and prestige research labs rather than endowing for shareholders huge personal balances at BlackRock. Workers find it easier to bargain for better wages and conditions when their firms are flush, rather than when they are kept “lean” or even leveraged by whisking cash flows to investors as soon as they are earned. Indeed, during the barbarism of the “shareholder-value revolution”, firms were advised to stay leveraged in order to discipline managers against the temptation they might be generous to workers rather than funders. With the knife of hard interest obligations at their throats, managers behave as if they are greedier than when they have a great deal of financial slack. Conversely, when investors let firms accumulate cash, managers behave as if they are less greedy, whatever generosity is or is not in their unobservable hearts.

So, one way to suppress inequality from the demand-side is just to have high top marginal tax rates. Similarly, high corporate tax rates can reduce firms’ demand for accounting profits, rendering shareholders more open to “expenses” that might build off-balance-sheet, long-time-horizon assets. Like resiliency. Or a capable and loyal workforce. Do shareholders and managers in their hearts become more generous, or do they just pretend to be, because devoted and experienced workers are necessary to preserve wealth that they can no longer quickly extract? Does it matter?

One way the rich demand wealth flows is by accumulating market power, escaping or restraining competition, whether as sellers of outputs or buyers of inputs. The extent to which our economy is now controlled by monopoly is extraordinary. The rich have demanded, and we have accommodated, an era of “chokepoint capitalism“, as Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow put it.

But we can make them want to do that less, if we make the costs and risks of engendering chokepoints higher. In the previous post, I suggested nationalizing the freight rail industry. (I’m not alone!) But won’t that turn us into Soviet Russia or something, if private assets can be force-purchased arbitrarily by the overweening state? Well, not if it isn’t arbitrary.

The legitimacy of private sector economic power is based on the claim that competition will discipline it in the public interest. When that claim holds, then the state generally should leave firms in the private sector. But as soon as competition becomes perhaps less than vigorous, municipalization or nationalization should be on the table, front and center. We need to flip the incentives surrounding “antitrust”. Under the status quo, firms seek to limit competition as much as they can get away with, while regulators play whack-a-mole with very proportionate (usually much less than proportionate) remedies. Instead, what we want is for industries themselves to ostentatiously ensure they are open and competitive, because the threat of eminent domain hangs above dominant firms if it seems like they are not.

Would Bill Gates, in his heart, have been less of a rapacious monopolist if market domination carried the real, proximate threat of nationalization? I have no idea, but I bet that Windows’ “openness” in the 1990s would have been less of a marketing sop and more of a fact, regardless. Do network effects mean that, really, there can be only one dominant search engine? I bet Google would figure out how to share some of the benefits its users create for it with other firms, if failure to do so risked making Google (reasonably enough!) a public utility. Etc.

High top marginal tax rates, or perhaps even a wealth cap. Taxes on firm payouts, higher corporate profits taxes, an excess profit margins tax. Normalizing the nationalization of monopolies. All of these interventions might lead wealthy investors and managers to behave as if they are less greedy.

Alternatively, we might say the status quo — under which the already rich can endlessly extract ever more funds via ever less competitive firms with little cost or penalty, while as individuals we are locked in competition with one another for essential positional goods — encourages people to behave as if we are more greedy than we in some sense truly are. The fact of inequality, and a legal environment that permits and promotes it, can be understood as a tax on virtue. Let’s tax money instead. Let’s reshape our laws so that endlessly extractive behavior just makes less sense.

Whether the humans in our heart of hearts are generous or greedy, naughty or nice, I leave to you dear reader. Regardless, we can build a world in which people just want to do the things that divide and impoverish us a great deal less. Let’s.

Update History:

  • 7-Dec-2022, 11:30 a.m. EST: “Workers finds find it easier to bargain for better wages and conditions…”

51 Matters

Remember that 51 senators is substantially different from 50. Big picture, 50 Senate seats plus Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote made Chuck Schumer the Majority Leader. He and his caucus controlled the calendar, what came to a vote. But the committees had equal numbers of Democratic and Republican members. That meant issuing subpoenas required agreement between the parties. Nominees couldn’t be voted out of committee on straight partisan votes. There were workarounds for some of these issues. But they were complicated and time-consuming. So in addition to decreasing the clout of Senators Manchin and Sinema and positioning Democrats marginally better for retaining the Senate in 2024, the difference between 50 and 51 senators is a big deal on the basic nuts and bolts of running the Senate, getting judicial nominees confirmed and more.

China Abandons Key Parts of Zero-COVID Strategy After Protests

Frances Mao, reporting for BBC News:

China is lifting its most severe Covid policies — including forcing people into quarantine camps — just a week after landmark protests against the strict controls.

People with Covid can now isolate at home rather than in state facilities if they have mild or no symptoms. They also no longer need to show tests for most venues, and can travel more freely inside the country.

Seems undeniable that these recent protests worked. So will more protests start happening in China, or were these COVID restrictions a unique situation?

 ★ 

Warnock Wins

This is good. It helps with a whole bunch of procedural issues, such as appointing more judges. Of course, if professional Democrats hadn’t fucked up in multiple ways regarding the House, we would be much better off.

One thing that hurt Walker, compared to Trump, is Walker wasn’t filtered by the political press corps: people could see his incoherence unfiltered and that really hurt him. Trump’s coverage often excerpted the (relatively) coherent parts, making him seem less ridiculous and more intelligent than he was. Democrats need to figure out how to make what Walker experienced happen more often.

Also, Warnock is a very talented politician, and, in a state like Georgia, his ability to code as a ‘non-threatening Black man’ is a huge political asset: even many Republicans think he’s a decent person. He wouldn’t be a bad presidential candidate some day. Just saying.

Also, Democrats should make Georgia, not South Carolina, an early state.

Damn, the Democrats needed to hold the House. Instead, we’re going to have batshit lunacy for (at least) two years.

The NYPL’s Collection of Weird Objects

The New York Public Library maintains a collection of literary paraphernalia (which they call “realia”) that has gathered almost by accident and includes items like a lock of Walt Whitman’s hair, the death mask of E.E. Cummings, and Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly drawings. The collection is only available by appointment, but the New Yorker snuck in for a look.

On the third floor of the New York Public Library, off of a quiet, marble-tiled hallway, is the Berg Reading Room. Mary Catherine Kinniburgh is one of the literary-manuscript specialists in charge of the cache of artifacts, which includes a lock of Walt Whitman’s hair, Jack Kerouac’s boots, and Virginia Woolf’s walking cane-all guarded by a buzzer and a strict protocol for appointment-only visits. “You can’t help but be a person in space and time in history, particularly in this room. It’s an opportunity to encounter an object in a very physical way, to generate meaning that transcends the shape of time,” Kinniburgh said.

Tags: NYPL   video

Op-ed | Running the Space Playbook in Chile

Chile holds half or more of the world’s astronomy infrastructure, but the nation's future in space is not just relegated to looking up.

The post Op-ed | Running the Space Playbook in Chile appeared first on SpaceNews.

Wholesale Used Car Prices Declined Slightly in November; Prices Down 14.2% Year-over-year

From Manheim Consulting today: Wholesale Used-Vehicle Prices See Minimal Decline in November
Wholesale used-vehicle prices (on a mix, mileage, and seasonally adjusted basis) decreased 0.3% in November from October. The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index (MUVVI) declined to 199.4, down 14.2% from a year ago. This is the first time the MUVVI has dropped below 200.0 since August 2021. The non-adjusted price change in November was a decline of 1.6% compared to October, moving the unadjusted average price down 12.4% year over year.
emphasis added
Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index Click on graph for larger image.

This index from Manheim Consulting is based on all completed sales transactions at Manheim’s U.S. auctions.

The Manheim index suggests used car prices decreased in November and were down 14.2% year-over-year (YoY).  

This also suggests the consumer price index for used cars and trucks will be down again in November.

It is likely this index will be down further YoY in December.   

Save Your Brain: Don’t Watch TV on Election Night

Something came home to me last night that I’ve realized for a while but crystalized for me in a new way. If you’re into elections and want to watch results on election night you should never watch them on TV. Ever. If you were watching last night’s election on TV you probably had the sense the race was a close run thing with the lead bouncing back and forth, with Herschel Walker possibly mounting a comeback after weeks of coverage that made Raphael Warnock appear a favorite to win a full term. If you watched the results through my curated Twitter feed of election number crunchers, though, you saw something very different: from the very first returns it looked likely — and then with growing clarity — that the results would roughly bear out the polls, which showed Warnock with a modest but significant lead. The final results this morning show Warnock beating Walker by just shy of three percentage points, almost on the dot of what the consensus of polls predicted.

This doesn’t mean that everything was clear from the start in that number-crunching conversation. This gets us into the nature of uncertainty itself, different kinds of uncertainty. My point is that there was little or no gyrating back and forth. We went into the night thinking the probable election outcome was X. The very first results supported the eventual outcome of X but were too limited to confirm it. As the results came in they continued to point to X with a mounting likelihood. With more and more data that mounting likelihood of X moved toward relative certainty. The point, as I noted, is that there was no drama as the statewide results lead sloshed back and forth between the two candidates. (In an era of partisanized voting methods — early vs. same day — those interim leads are basically irrelevant. November 8th was the first election in which I literally didn’t watch them at all.) Sometimes watching the numbers up close like this does contain a lot of drama. It definitely did on election night 2020 and on election night 2022 as well. But that’s real drama, contradictory signals in the data as the results come in, not fake drama.

Of course, you really don’t need to spend your election night poring over data to glean what you’ll know for a certainty if you wait a few hours (or, sometimes, a few days). You really can just have a nice dinner and read a book or stream the latest TV show. That’s probably what you should do. But if that’s not your thing, don’t watch the returns on TV.

Which brings us to the question: Why is the TV coverage so bad?

First is the simple need for drama. There’s an obvious need to keep it interesting. Second, though, is that the details are kinda technical. I don’t have either the statistical training or the knowledge of political geography to do what these professional election analysts and number crunchers do. But I know enough to understand and interpret what they’re saying. That takes a fair amount of experience as a consumer of political news. Thats just not a mass market thing. You cant just port that stuff easily to TV. It would be hard to follow. In some cases, it would be incomprehensible to most people. It wouldn’t make for good TV. You would need to adapt it. And while there’s been some of that, it’s just not there yet. For now, it’s a specialist, a political junky kind of thing.

So if that’s you, if you’re into politics and basically conversant in it, don’t watch any of it on TV on election night.

Fifty years later, remastered images reveal Apollo 17 in stunning clarity

Eugene Cernan is seen inside the Lunar Module after a long day's work on the lunar surface.

Enlarge / Eugene Cernan is seen inside the Lunar Module after a long day's work on the lunar surface. (credit: Andy Saunders/Apollo Remastered)

Shortly after midnight, 50 years ago this morning, the Apollo 17 mission lifted off from Florida. With Gene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt, and Ron Evans on board, this was NASA's sixth and final spaceflight to the lunar surface.

Cernan and Schmitt spent three days on the Moon, setting records for the longest distance traversed in their rover—7.6 km—and the amount of lunar rocks returned. But today, what the mission is perhaps most remembered for is the fact that it was the last time humans landed on the Moon—or even went beyond low Earth orbit.

Memorably, before he boarded the Lunar Module to blast off from the Moon's surface, Cernan radioed back to Mission Control on Earth. People, he said, would return to the Moon "not too long into the future." Speaking to him much later in life, it was clear from Cernan's frustrations that he did not mean decades into the future.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tips for analyzing logs

Hello! I’ve been working on writing a zine about debugging for a while now (we’re getting close to finishing it!!!!), and one of the pages is about analyzing logs. I asked for some tips on Mastodon and got WAY more tips than could fit on the page, so I thought I’d write a quick blog post.

I’m going to talk about log analysis in the context of distributed systems debugging (you have a bunch of servers with different log files and you need to work out what happened) since that’s what I’m most familiar with.

search for the request’s ID

Often log lines will include a request ID. So searching for the request ID of a failed reques will show all the log lines for that request.

This is a GREAT way to cut things down, and it’s one of the first helpful tips I got about distributed systems debugging – I was staring at a bunch of graphs on a dashboard fruitlessly trying to find patterns, and a coworker gave me the advice (“julia, try looking at the logs for a failed request instead!”). That turned out to be WAY more effective in that case.

correlate between different systems

Sometimes one set of logs doesn’t have the information you need, but you can get that information from a different service’s logs about the same request.

If you’re lucky, they’ll both share a request ID.

More often, you’ll need to manually piece together context from clues and the timestamps of the request.

This is really annoying but I’ve found that often it’s worth it and gets me a key piece of information.

beware of time issues

If you’re trying to correlate events based on time, there are a couple of things to be aware of:

  • sometimes the time in a logging system is based on the time the log was ingested, not the time that the event actually happened. Sometimes you have to write a date parser to get the actual time the event happened.
  • different machines can have slightly skewed clocks

log lines for the same request can be very far apart

Especially if a request takes a long time (maybe it took 5 minutes because of a long timeout!), the log lines for the request might be much more spread out than you expected. You can accumulate many thousands of log lines in 5 minutes!

Searching for the request ID really helps with this – it makes it harder to accidentally miss a log entry with an important clue.

Also, log lines can occasionally get completely lost if a server dies.

build a timeline

Keeping all of the information straight in your head can get VERY confusing, so I find it helpful to keep a debugging document where I copy and paste bits of information.

This might include:

  • key error messages
  • links to relevant dashboards / log system searches
  • pager alerts
  • graphs
  • human actions that were taken (“right before this message, we restarted the load balancer…”)
  • my interpretation of various messages (“I think this was caused by…”)

reformat them into a table

Sometimes I’ll reformat the log lines to just print out the information I’m interested in, to make it easier to scan. I’ve done this on the command line with a simple awk commmand:

cat ... | awk '{print $5 - $8}'

but also with fancy log analysis tools (like Splunk) that let you make a table on the web

check that a “suspicious” error is actually new

Sometimes I’ll notice a suspicious error in the logs and think “OH THERE’S THE CULPRIT!!!“. But when I search for that message to make sure that it’s actually new, I’ll find out that this error actually happens constantly during normal operation, and that it’s completely unrelated to the (new) situation that I’m dealing with.

use the logs to make a graph

Some log analysis tools will let you turn your log lines into a graph to detect patterns.

You can also make a quick histogram with grep and sort. For example I’ve often done something like:

grep -o (some regex) | sort | uniq -c | sort -n

to count how many of each line matching my regular expression there are

filter out irrelevant lines

You can remove irrelevant lines with grep like this:

cat file | grep -v THING1 | grep -v THING2 | grep -v THING3 | grep -v THING4

for the reply guys: yes, we all know you don’t need to use cat here :)

Or if your log system has some kind of query language, you can search for NOT THING1 AND NOT THING2 ...

find the first error

Often an error causes a huge cascade of related errors. Digging into the later errors can waste a lot of your time – you need to start by finding the first thing that triggered the error. Often you don’t need to understand the exact deals of why the 15th thing in the error cascade failed, you can just fix the original problem and move on.

scroll through the log really fast

If you already have an intuition for what log lines for this service should normally look like, sometimes scrolling through them really fast will reveal something that looks off.

turn the log level up (or down)

Sometimes turning up the log level will give you a key error message that explains everything.

But other times, you’ll get overwhelmed by a million irrelevant messages because the log level is set to INFO, and you need to turn the log level down.

put it in a spreadsheet/database

I’ve never tried this myself, but a couple of people suggested copying parts of the logs into a spreadsheet (with the timestamp in a different column) to make it easier to filter / sort.

You could also put the data into SQLite or something (maybe with sqlite-utils?) if you want to be able to run SQL queries on your logs.

on generating good logs

A bunch of people also had thoughts on how to output easier-to-analyze logs. This is a bigger topic than a few bullet points but here are a few quick things:

  • use a standard schema/format to make them easier to parse
  • include a transaction ID/request ID, to make it easier to filter for all lines related to a single transaction/request
  • include relevant information. For example, “ERROR: Invalid msg size” is less helpful than “ERROR: Invalid msg size. Msg-id 234, expected size 54, received size 0”.
  • avoid logging personally identifiable information
  • use a logging framework instead of using print statements (this helps you have things like log levels and a standard structure)

that’s all!

Let me know on Twitter/Mastodon if there’s anything I missed! I might edit this to add a couple more things.

Insulting the president, in Indonesia

 Sex outside of marriage, and insulting the president are to become more serious crimes in Indonesia.  (The law has a foolproof way of determining if the president has been insulted.)

The Guardian has the story:

Indonesia set to make sex outside marriage punishable by jail. MPs expected to pass new criminal code that will also make insulting the president a crime

"Indonesia’s parliament is expected to pass a new criminal code this month that would criminalise sex outside marriage and outlaw insults against the president or state institutions, prompting alarm from human rights campaigners.

"The deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, said in an interview with Reuters that the new criminal code was expected to be passed on 15 December. “We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values,” he said.

...

"Sex outside marriage, which under the code could be reported only by limited parties such as close relatives, could lead to up to a year in prison, while unmarried couples would be banned from living together.

...

"Insulting the president, which under the code could be reported only by the president, would carry a maximum of three years. Insulting state institutions and expressing any views counter to Indonesia’s state ideology would also be forbidden."

TriSept and SpiderOak unveil strategic partnership

TriSept, a launch integration and mission management specialist, announced a strategic partnership Dec. 7 with cybersecurity firm SpiderOak to offer an “end-to-end security system” for satellites and ground systems.

The post TriSept and SpiderOak unveil strategic partnership appeared first on SpaceNews.

NASA confirms NEO Surveyor for 2028 launch

NEOCam

NASA has approved for development a space telescope to search for near Earth objects as some members of Congress lobby the agency to move up the mission.

The post NASA confirms NEO Surveyor for 2028 launch appeared first on SpaceNews.

Wow

I’m a bit of a broken record on this. But it’s true enough to bear some repeating. Raphael Warnock and Mark Kelly are two incredibly able politicians. Until 2018 and 2020, Democrats hadn’t been elected to Senate seats in Arizona and Georgia for decades. They’ve now both done it twice, in two consecutive cycles and under dramatically different political conditions. Of course, these aren’t feats of superhuman political powers. This is the direction of these states. But they are only on the cusp of being purple states. To chalk up two consecutive wins you need to be doing everything right. And both of them did.

China is considering expanding its Tiangong space station

An image from Tianhe panoramic camera A during the first Shenzhou-13 spacewalk outside the Tiangong space station in November 2021.

China is already considering adding modules to its recently-completed Tiangong space station complex, according to a senior space official.

The post China is considering expanding its Tiangong space station appeared first on SpaceNews.

AI is going to break a lot of norms and institutions

AI is going to break a lot of norms and institutions. Sam Hammond offers a peak:

Indeed, within a decade, ordinary people will have more capabilities than a CIA agent does today. You’ll be able to listen in on a conversation in an apartment across the street using the sound vibrations off a chip bag. You’ll be able to replace your face and voice with those of someone else in real time, allowing anyone to socially engineer their way into anything. Bots will slide into your DMs and have long, engaging conversations with you until it senses the best moment to send its phishing link. Games like chess and poker will have to be played naked and in the presence of (currently illegal) RF signal blockers to guarantee no one’s cheating. Relationships will fall apart when the AI lets you know, via microexpressions, that he didn’t really mean it when he said he loved you. Copyright will be as obsolete as sodomy law, as thousands of new Taylor Swift albums come into being with a single click. Public comments on new regulations will overflow with millions of cogent and entirely unique submissions that the regulator must, by law, individually read and respond to. Death-by-kamikaze drone will surpass mass shootings as the best way to enact a lurid revenge. The courts, meanwhile, will be flooded with lawsuits because who needs to pay attorney fees when your phone can file an airtight motion for you?

The post AI is going to break a lot of norms and institutions appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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The Decoupling Principle

This is a really interesting paper that discusses what the authors call the Decoupling Principle:

The idea is simple, yet previously not clearly articulated: to ensure privacy, information should be divided architecturally and institutionally such that each entity has only the information they need to perform their relevant function. Architectural decoupling entails splitting functionality for different fundamental actions in a system, such as decoupling authentication (proving who is allowed to use the network) from connectivity (establishing session state for communicating). Institutional decoupling entails splitting what information remains between non-colluding entities, such as distinct companies or network operators, or between a user and network peers. This decoupling makes service providers individually breach-proof, as they each have little or no sensitive data that can be lost to hackers. Put simply, the Decoupling Principle suggests always separating who you are from what you do.

Lots of interesting details in the paper.

MBA: Mortgage Applications Decrease in Latest Weekly Survey

From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Decrease in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Mortgage applications decreased 1.9 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending December 2, 2022. Last week’s results include an adjustment for the observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

... The Refinance Index increased 5 percent from the previous week and was 86 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 31 percent compared with the previous week and was 40 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“Mortgage applications decreased 2 percent compared to the Thanksgiving holiday-adjusted results from the previous week, even as mortgage rates continued to trend lower. Rates decreased for most loan products, with the 30-year fixed declining 8 basis points to 6.41 percent after reaching 7.16 percent in October,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “The 30-year fixed rate was 73 basis points lower than a month ago – but was still more than three percentage points higher than in December 2021. Additionally, the pace of refinancing remained around 80 percent lower than a year ago.”

Added Kan, “Purchase activity slowed last week, with a drop in conventional purchase applications partially offset by an increase in FHA and USDA loan applications. The average loan size for purchase applications decreased to $387,300 – its lowest level since January 2021. The decrease was consistent with slightly stronger government applications and a rapidly cooling home-price environment.”
...
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) decreased to 6.41 percent from 6.49 percent, with points decreasing to 0.63 from 0.68 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.
emphasis added
Mortgage Refinance IndexClick on graph for larger image.


The first graph shows the refinance index since 1990.

With higher mortgage rates, the refinance index has declined sharply this year.

The refinance index is near the lowest level since the year 2000.

The second graph shows the MBA mortgage purchase index

Mortgage Purchase IndexAccording to the MBA, purchase activity is down 40% year-over-year unadjusted.

The purchase index is 4% below the pandemic low and up slightly from the lowest level since 2015.

Note: Red is a four-week average (blue is weekly).

Carbonating beef broth for fun and profit

Hear me out: fizzy gravy.

I can’t remember exactly how this came up but it was at Alex‘s party so blame her.

I recently encountered sparkling tea. Not a thing I’d run into before. The main brand is Copenhagen Sparkling Tea developed in a Michelin star restaurant. Fortnum’s has its own brand which is apparently pretty good.

Which prompted the question: what other savoury consumables can be similarly sparkled?

Carbonated beef gravy.

You’d package it like aerosol squirty cream, somebody said. Squirt it from the can onto your roast potatoes and it would stick where you put it. Handy!

So the actual fun with this game is not thinking of foods to fizz but to come up with how you’d market them.

I think you could make a play for fizzy gravy being a kind of democratic sauce. Like, foams and molecular gastronomy are available only in fancy restaurants for the 1%, but this is gravy passed through a SodaStream so pretty much anyone can do it at home.

Or maybe you could use a milk frother like the ones you get with coffee machines. A velvety meaty microfoam.

A more compelling angle might be health?

For example: Halo Top ice cream. Wildly popular in 2018 (and sold to Wells in 2019). Slogan: eat the whole tub. This is because it’s low calorie.

Halo Top is low calorie partly because uses sweeteners, not sugar, but partly because of a clever hack on food marketing. Ice cream in the US is sold by volume not weight. So a pint is a pint, but: "A pint of vanilla Halo Top weighs 256 grams, while a pint of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla weighs 428 grams." (Source.) It’s incredibly aerated.

Which is a neat comparable. Aerated ice cream used to be the cheap own-brand stuff. With Halo Top it’s healthy.

Now gravy?

Squirty gravy in a can could be doubly healthy because you don’t need as much (precision squirting means you put it only where it’s needed, instead of your food swimming in it) and also because it’s aerated so you consume less actual gravy per mouthful.

I bet you could market a premium-yet-democratised, indulgent-yet-healthy gravy foam in a can.

In terms of influencer marketing you’d start by going after top-end restaurants and street food simultaneously. Street food because it’s highly grammable and also experimental: gravy microfoam offers the opportunity to use umami-heavy meat broth as a ketchup or mayo-like condiment in wraps and burgers, and that’s a new taste.


A few years back, I did a little work with an FMCG startup incubator. FMCG = fast-moving consumer goods, which covers multiple segments, and these folks specialised in branding and packaging new foods and snacks.

FMCG founders differ from tech starter founders, I learnt. They tend to be older, apparently, and they usually have incredibly good personal connections into distribution. They know where to launch and how to scale.

Plus what they have is good connections to factories. Some factory somewhere will develop a new process like, say, how to economically produce extremely puffed biltong. Then the founder will the first to see that, know there’s a trend in on-the-move protein snacks for gen z, put the two together and run with it.

The rest is branding. Then the company sells a few years later to Unilever for 9 figures or whatever.


An alternative to the health angle is flavour?

Carbonation will make the meat gravy slightly acidic so you’ll get a little pop from that. Then the cavitation from the bubbles is going to add a unique mouth-feel.

RELATED, on the food and technology front: Pepsico invented a new shape of salt crystal for reduced sodium and extra flavour.

I’d be sceptical about the level of novelty except for a drink from the 1950s called Beef Fizz.

Recipe:

  • Ginger ale: 1 cup
  • Lemon juice: 2 tablespoons
  • Canned condensed beef broth: 1 pint

Historical precedent!

Here’s someone who tried it:

"Shockingly, Beef Fizz wasn’t as bad as we expected. It was worse. Much, much worse."

Look that’s not promising I admit but putting it another way, the bar is low.

So if you have a milk frother then please do try aerating your turkey gravy this Christmas and, if family feedback is good, we’ll take it to the supermarkets and go halfsies.

We can't have good faith on a flat social battery

After several covid years without, I've returned to speak at quite a few conferences and seminars this year. From OMR in Hamburg to Swiss Startup Nights near Zurich to Nordic Perspectives & Fingerprints in Copenhagen. But it was the session last night at the Copenhagen Townhall gathering of startup founders and investors that really cemented the impression: This is just better. A better way for minds to mingle, a better way for discourse to flow freely, a better way to open new perspectives. Better than online.

That's one of the reasons I've mostly given up on Twitter as a medium for my original thoughts and attempts at active persuasion. Everyone's guards are up so high when they engage in online, public forums. It feels exceedingly difficult to have a good-faith debate these days, and actually see a possibility to change someone's perspective or opinion (or your own!). Twitter is a reinforcement engine for existing beliefs and tribes.

The reverse is true when you attend a conference or seminar in person. The ideological guards are down, the mind is opened to new ideas, and most people show up with a genuine curiosity about the topics in play. This intellectual stance makes it a joy to engage, even on big, difficult topics.

Perhaps it's ironic that I should be singing the praises of in-person events after two decades of preaching the virtues of remote, but I don't actually think there's a conflict here. Just like with our biyearly company meet-ups at 37signals, these industry events recharge social and intellectual batteries. Storing energy that can sustain working remotely and engaging with strangers over the internet in a healthier way for months afterwards.

Maybe that really is part of the way we start healing the divisions and acrimony across the many communities and ecosystems that might have teetered on the point of no return. Groups that could be brought back from the brink if people connected physically. It's obviously no panacea, as the trouble in academia with invited speakers show, but I'm still optimistic that it can work in other intellectual realms. Be they technical, entrepreneurial, or otherwise.

The strength of online communities is drawn from the good faith of its participants. Building that faith, broadly and deeply, just happens much faster when we tap into the human connections established by a disarming smile, eye contact, and the open minds that follow.

Let's recharge.

How will ChatGPT affect American government?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Consider the regulatory process. In the US, there is typically a comment period before many new regulations take effect. To date, it has been presumed that human beings are making the comments. Yet by mobilizing ChatGPT, it is possible for interested parties to flood the system. There is no law against using software to aid in the production of public comments, or legal documents for that matter, and if need be a human could always add some modest changes.

ChatGPT seems to do best when there is a wide range of relevant and available texts to train from. In this regard, the law is a nearly an ideal subject. So it would not surprise me if the comment process, within the span of a year, is broken. Yet how exactly are governments supposed to keep out software-generated content?

Stack Overflow, a software forum, already has already banned ChatGPT content because it has led to an unmanageable surfeit of material. The question is whether that ban can be enforced.

Of course regulatory comments are hardly the only vulnerable point in the US political system. ChatGPT can easily write a letter or email to a member of Congress praising or complaining about a particular policy, and that letter will be at least as good as what many constituents would write, arguably even better. Over time, interest groups will employ ChatGPT, and they will flood the political system with artificial but intelligent content.

To be clear, I do not think the sky will fall, but this is going to mean big changes at the procedural level, with some spillovers into substance as well.  As a tag to close the column, I also asked ChatGPT what it thought would happen…

The post How will ChatGPT affect American government? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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Do people really still think stocks will return 10%?

The idea that putting your money in the stock market will deliver 10% returns is a staple of popular personal finance. Here’s an example I recently came across:

10%, when you compound it, is a very high return! With 10% returns you double your money every seven years! No wonder personal finance people use that number to urge you to save more money.

What’s kind of amazing, though, is that 10% has not actually been that unrealistic for what you could expect to earn in the U.S. stock market over the last century and a half! The compound annualized growth rate (CAGR) of the S&P 500 between January 1871 and December 2021, including dividends, was 9.37%. That’s in dollar terms, of course; when you account for inflation, it was just 7.14%. But doubling your wealth every decade, just by buying and holding some stocks, sounds like a pretty great deal to me.

And what’s even more amazing is how consistently this growth rate has held up over decades upon decades. Since 1926, 30-year annualized returns have hovered pretty closely around 10% or a little higher (or about 7% after inflation). Sure, there was risk in there. But the worst 30-year return you could get would be if you bought the S&P at the peak in 1929, and you’d still get about 8%!

In other words, the personal finance people are right…at least, as far as the past is concerned.

But past performance is no guarantee of future results, and there’s no deep reason to think that U.S. stock market returns are some kind of constant of the Universe. Also, a lot of people are just 10 or 20 years away from retirement, or from having to sell stock to pay for their kids’ college educations, so not everyone can take comfort in the idea of a 30- or 40-year investing horizon.

And when I look at the prospects for U.S. stock returns, I see a lot of headwinds. Market size is shrinking, growth is slowing, and companies may be less able to boost profit margins going forward. Interest rates are going up too, and there’s little reason to expect new retail investing manias like the one in 2021 to ride to the rescue.

That doesn’t mean there’s any clearly better investment than U.S. stocks out there in the world. And as always, note that this blog post should not be regarded as investment advice. I’m just not so ready to pencil in 10% when calculating my future wealth, like the people in the personal finance videos do.

Five things that affect stock prices

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Why the CDC is hard to fix

As of October, 10,020 of the CDC’s 12,892 full-time employees — 78% of the full-time workforce — were allowed to work remotely all or part of the time, according to data that KHN obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Experts said the lack of face-to-face work will likely be a substantial obstacle to the top leadership’s effort to overhaul the agency after its failures during the pandemic — a botched testing rollout, confusing safety guidance, the slow release of scientific research, and a loss of public trust.

They also wondered whether Walensky, who frequently works remotely while traveling, can bring about that change from afar and whether a virtual workforce might experience more challenges battling infectious diseases than one working together in person.

“One of the things that a really strong new leader would do is they’d be visible, they’d be walking the halls, they’d have the open door,” said Pamela Hinds, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University. “That’s much harder to accomplish when nobody’s there.”

Here is the full story, via Rich Dewey.

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Georgia Live Blogging #2

9:36 PM: Okay, the man has spoken. Dave Wasserman of The Cook Report says it’s done: Warnock defeats Walker.

9:29 PM: I think Warnock continues to have the inside track. The uncertainty is that we don’t know precisely the makeup of the votes in those blue counties where lots of votes are left. Those could be heavily same day and actually lean to Walker. So there’s still some uncertainty. But it’s a significant uncertainty in an overall context where signs really point to a Walker win. In North Georgia Walker has put up numbers he needs to win. But in the rest of the state the pattern is Warnock making modest but consistent gains on his November totals. It would be a surprise if that pattern didn’t continue in metro Atlanta. But who knows?

9:06 PM: Not clear to me how much visibility there is into these early counts out of the Atlanta area counties into what’s election day and early. You could speculate that they’ve only counted the Warnock-leaning earlies so far and next up is Walker. But I kinda doubt that. I think this is Warnock’s unless something wildly unexpected happens.

9:01 PM: We finally got a big chunk of the vote in in DeKalb County. Still only around ~50% reporting. But starting to show the numbers that put Warnock ahead. At this point this is where the remaining votes are, this and similar counties. So even though Warnock’s overall lead is razor thin it should grow.

8:37 PM: Have said it over and over. But it’s still the same. Warnock probably wins tonight. But we don’t have the votes in metro Atlanta. That will tell the story. Walker needs a strong showing in metro Atlanta, relative to expectations. Doesn’t seem likely. But run-offs are unpredictable. Just to give a sense 5% of the vote in in DeKalb, 55% in Fulton, 53% in Gwinnett, in Cobb 23%.

Georgia Live Blogging

8:32 PM: One of the people I follow just put together the numbers and found that in all five counties with more than 10k total votes Warnock is bettering his November margins. That’s a clear indicator.

8:27 PM: It’s hard to do a methodical analysis in real time. But I keep seeing completed red-rural counties where Walker is falling off his margins from November. The differences are quite small, a percentage point or two. But remember, he came in second in November. So falling back is bad. That’s not the story in every county. But it’s more than not from what I can see. The picture seems to be crystallizing in Warnock’s direction. That’s my read at least. Definitely need to see the big metros to be on firm ground.

8:16 PM: Same picture. Basically a re-run of November 8th but with Walker seeming to be very slightly underperforming his November numbers in the now completed red rural counties. Advantage Warnock but far from done. If you’re the Walker campaign you have to be hoping that Warnock underperforms on his home turf in metro Atlanta. That’s not what you’d expect. But run-off turnout is unpredictable. So by no means can you rule it out.

7:58 PM: Gist so far seems to be this: There was some thought that demoralization on Walker side might lead to the bottom dropping out and a solid win for Warnock. That’s now what we’re seeing so far. It’s very close, based on what we’re seeing so far. In the completed counties, which are almost all red rural counties, Warnock’s is very slightly improving his margins. That sounds like he’s on the road to another close victory. But the big metros are still an open question. And surprises there in either direction could change things substantially. The thing to remember is that Walker was ahead by a tiny margin in November. So broadly speaking percentages that are a replay of last month are good for him.

7:46 PM: We’re in the early numbers and all the vagaries of early voting and election day voting makes it hard to make sense of early numbers. That makes you reliant on the few completed or near completed counties. That removes questions about different kinds of voting from the equation. So far that’s only small red counties. They’re showing a tight race but in most cases Warnock very, very slightly improving his margins from November 8th. Given that he was ahead of Walker in round one (but under 50%) that’s obviously a positive for Warnock. Still early though and there’s a lot we don’t know about election day in the more populous counties.

Mynaric, Redwire, BigBear.ai partner for DARPA’s laser communications program

Mynaric selected a cybersecurity tool from Redwire and BigBear.ai for an inter-satellite laser communications terminal being developed for DARPA

The post Mynaric, Redwire, BigBear.ai partner for DARPA’s laser communications program appeared first on SpaceNews.

The Northern Lights Photographer of the Year for 2022

a photo of the northern lights

a photo of the northern lights

Science fiction and fantasy artists could labor for a thousand years and never come up with something as beautiful and unbelievable as the aurora borealis. Nature: still undefeated. Those two shots are from the 2022 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year awards — the top one was captured by Tor-Ivar Næss in Norway and the bottom one was taken in Denmark by Ruslan Merzlyakov.

Tags: astronomy   best of   best of 2022   photography

Mystery Asterisk Destination

If you ever see the † dagger symbol with no unmatched footnote, it means the writer is saying the phrase while threatening you with a dagger.

Tim Cook Says Apple Will Use TSMC Chips Fabbed in Arizona

Kif Leswing, reporting for CNBC:

“And now, thanks to the hard work of so many people, these chips can be proudly stamped Made in America,” Cook said. “This is an incredibly significant moment.”

The chip factories will be owned and operated by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the biggest foundry company with over half of the global market share. TSMC produces the most advanced processors, including the chips in the latest iPhones, iPads and Macs.

The plants will be capable of manufacturing the 4-nanometer and 3-nanometer chips that are used for advanced processors such as Apple’s A-series and M-series and Nvidia’s graphics processors.

Hard to overstate how important it will be if TSMC starts turning out world-class chips from Arizona. For Apple, yes, but more so for the world, overall, to get leading-edge fabrication out from under the thumb of China.

Tim Cook, on Twitter:

Apple silicon unlocks a new level of performance for our users. And soon, many of these chips can be stamped “Made in America.” The opening of TSMC’s plant in Arizona marks a new era of advanced manufacturing in the U.S. — and we are proud to become the site’s largest customer.

 ★ 

Wired: ‘Tony Fadell Is Trying to Build the iPod of Crypto’

The incomparable Steven Levy, writing for Wired:

One of his dreams was to extend the screen along the edge of the unit, so people could label it. None of the E Ink displays he saw could do what he wanted, so he contacted an old friend, the UK venture capitalist Hermann Hauser, who had once been involved in an unsuccessful ebook device with advanced E Ink. That company, Plastic Logic, was now based in Dresden, Germany, and was making custom E Ink displays. And they could bend! The curved display had at that point been used only by an obscure Russian phone called the YotaPhone. Fadell wanted to produce hundreds of thousands of screens with a dramatically sharper curve and at a low cost.

I will say, the Stax looks cool.

After breakfasting at the bistro, I spent an hour with him trying to get set up to trade crypto and buy NFTs. While getting the wallet to authenticate me was easy, getting the currency needed to buy the funky artworks Rogers likes proved frustratingly difficult, and apparently impossible to complete in the time we had. “Crypto is where the internet was in 1993,” he finally said, in a tone somewhere between wistful and pissed off. That doesn’t bother him too much — the iPod, after all, came out in the early, awkward days of digital music and took a few years to catch on. “The only question in my brain is, are we the Apple of Web3?” Rogers says. “Or are we the BlackBerry or Nokia of Web3?”

I’m unconvinced there will be an Apple of Web3.

 ★ 

Space Force procurement chief emphatic about the ‘need for speed’

Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, told an audience of space entrepreneurs that he is trying to drive a sense of urgency in military procurements.

The post Space Force procurement chief emphatic about the ‘need for speed’ appeared first on SpaceNews.

FDIC: Problem Banks Increased to 42 in Q3 2022

The FDIC released the Quarterly Banking Profile for Q3 2022 last week:
Net Income Increased Quarter Over Quarter and Year Over Year: Quarterly net income totaled $71.7 billion in third quarter 2022, an increase of $7.3 billion (11.3 percent) from the second quarter.
...
Asset Quality Metrics Were Favorable Overall Despite Growth in Early Delinquencies: Loans that were 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status (i.e., noncurrent loans) continued to decline and the noncurrent rate was down 3 basis points to 0.72 percent from second quarter 2022. The noncurrent rate for total loans is at the lowest level since second quarter 2006. Total net charge-offs increased 6 basis points from a year ago to 0.26 percent, driven by higher credit card and auto loan net charge offs. Early delinquencies (i.e., loans past due 30-89 days) increased 3 basis points from last quarter and 7 basis points from the year-ago quarter to 0.51 percent. Both the quarterly and annual increases were driven by an increase in past due credit cards, C&I, and auto loans.
emphasis added
FDIC Problem Banks Click on graph for larger image.

The FDIC reported the number of problem banks increased to 42.
The number of banks on the FDIC’s “Problem Bank List” increased by two from second quarter to 42. Total assets of problem banks declined $5.7 billion to $163.8 billion.7 No banks failed in the third quarter.
This graph from the FDIC shows the number of problem banks and assets at problem institutions.

Note: The number of assets for problem banks increased significantly back in 2018 when Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas was added to the list.  An even larger bank was added to the list last year, although the identity of the bank is unclear.

Mangata Networks gets funds for Scottish satellite manufacturing hub

Mangata Networks, the U.S.-based startup founded by a former OneWeb executive, said Dec. 5 it signed a $100 million financing deal to build a manufacturing facility in Scotland for its multi-orbit broadband constellation.

The post Mangata Networks gets funds for Scottish satellite manufacturing hub appeared first on SpaceNews.

Two Quick Links for Tuesday Afternoon

A site that rates apples. The SweeTango gets a 93/100 and is called "the best apple ever to grace the world of Gods and men". [applerankings.com]

"The truffle industry is a big scam. Not just truffle oil, everything." [tasteatlas.com]

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Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of kottke.org, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

CNBC: ‘Warner Bros Discovery Close to Picking “Max” for Name of HBO Max Replacement’

Alex Sherman and Lillian Rizzo, reporting for CNBC:

Warner Bros. Discovery executives are close to formalizing a new name and platform for its soon-to-be-launched streaming service that will combine the preexisting HBO Max and Discovery+ services.

The merged platform’s expected name, “Max,” is being vetted by the company’s lawyers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Executives haven’t finalized a decision and the name could still be changed, but Max is the likely choice, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Some senior executives are still debating a final name, said two of the people. Internally, Warner Bros. Discovery has given the new service a code name of “BEAM” while a final name is being debated, said the people. Lawyers are vetting other names, as well.

Not the worst name they could go with. The mistake with “HBO Max” was muddying the premium HBO brand with the “anything and everything” content of a unified app for everything this enormous content factory conglomerate puts online. My big question is what happens to HBO content. Is it stuck in a tab inside the “Max” app, or will there be a standalone “HBO” app too?

Update: Worth mentioning that Disney handles this branding issue pretty well inside its Disney+ app, with permanent banners for major sub-brands like Pixar and Star Wars.

 ★ 

[Sponsor] Kolide -- Endpoint Security for Teams That Slack

Do you know the old thought experiment about the AI designed to make paper clips that quickly decides that it will have to eliminate all the humans to maximize paper clips?

Many security teams have a similar idea when meeting compliance goals: it would be much simpler if it weren’t for all the pesky users.

That way of thinking has brought us to the current state of endpoint security, dominated by MDMs that hamper device performance and turn every laptop into Big Brother. This approach to security is bad for culture and morale; moreover, it doesn’t actually work. If it did, no company with an MDM and annual security training would have a data breach.

Kolide is endpoint security and fleet management that takes a different approach. We help our customers meet their compliance goals–whether for auditors, customers, or leadership–by enlisting the support of end users.

Kolide works by notifying your employees of security issues via Slack, educating them on why they’re important, and giving them step-by-step instructions to resolve them themselves.

For IT admins, Kolide helps you prove compliance via a single dashboard. From there, you can monitor the security of your entire fleet, whether they’re running on Mac, Windows, or Linux. (You read that right; Kolide can finally provide visibility into your Linux users.)

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you’re intrigued by an approach to endpoint security that gets end users involved. Click here to learn more about how it works. If you like what you see, you can sign up for a free trial; no credit card required.

 ★ 

Links 12/6/22

Links for you. Science:

Emergence and Evolutionary Response of Vibrio cholerae to Novel Bacteriophage, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Visa bureaucracy makes scientific conferences inaccessible for too many researchers
Long-term immune protection against SARS-CoV-2 escape variants upon a single vaccination with murine cytomegalovirus expressing the spike protein
Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Computer Design Innovator, Dies at 91
An elegant way to stop deadly Hendra virus spillovers from bats to horses … to us
SARS-CoV-2 infection produces chronic pulmonary epithelial and immune cell dysfunction with fibrosis in mice

Other:

Originalism is bunk. Liberal lawyers shouldn’t fall for it.
Why America’s Railroads Refuse to Give Their Workers Paid Leave
In Legislative Elections, Democrats Defied Recent History
Pandemic Year 3: Who’s Got the Power? Has public health failed us? Or have we failed public health?
D.C. Council Wants To Make Metrobus Fares Free
Musk’s Beloved Twitter Polls Are Bot-Driven Bullsh!t, Ex-Employees Say
The end of an error
What We Ask of Black American Athletes
Trump Brought Nazis Into the GOP. DeSantis Won’t Expel Them. White nationalism is not just a Trump problem.
Democracy Was Tried And Failed, Thus Two D.C. Races Will Be Settled By A Game Of Chance
How to Hate a Jew Like a Jew
The Communist Party Is Losing China’s People
How to Start a Fire: In the wake of the mass shooting at a Colorado gay bar, a reactionary media has blood on its hands
OMG, a Right-Wing Jerk Can Buy Twitter! Media Concentration Matters (don’t really agree with Baker’s solution; would prefer interoperability standards)
Emperor Charles V’s secret code cracked after five centuries
Tucker Carlson made Ye a right-wing hero. Now he’s praising Hitler and Nazis.
Which siding are you on? Through the historic district looking glass (the board member leading the charge in this ridiculousness is named, I kid you not, Outerbridge Horsey VII)
The pregnancy test is positive. Abortion is restricted maybe even illegal. What now?
What would Harry Reid do right now? Threaten to cancel Christmas to save the country
The problem with scarcity
As Boise officials announce investigation into racist police captain, extremists voice their dismay
A Hacked Newsroom Brings a Spyware Maker to U.S. Court
COVID boosted anti-vaccine propaganda. Now measles and other childhood diseases are on the march
D.C. Council Wants To Make Metrobus Fares Free In The District, Expand Service Overnight

Defense, Commerce Departments select companies to prototype space traffic management solutions

The Office of Space Commerce and the Department of Defense announced Dec. 6 they have selected six commercial firms to prototype space traffic data platforms

The post Defense, Commerce Departments select companies to prototype space traffic management solutions appeared first on SpaceNews.

Breaking

Trump Organization found guilty on all seventeen counts in New York City trial. More shortly.

Read The Subpoena

TPM’s Kaila Philo obtained a copy of the special counsel’s subpoena to the clerk of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. You can read it below:

Note To Listeners: Slight Delay In Podcast This Week

Just a quick note for our Josh Marshall Podcast listeners: due to scheduling conflicts (and by that I mean the Supreme Court hearing what might become the most important election law case in decades), we’ll be recording our weekly episode on Thursday, rather than Wednesday, of this week. Keep an eye on your feed and we’ll be back to regular programming next week.

The 100 Best Recordings of 2022 (Part 1 of 2)

Amazing music is happening right now.

Record labels and streaming platforms have little interest in launching new artists in the year 2022, but musicians are still doing mind-blowing work. The recordings below should convince you of that.

But you might not know this, because the businesses and institutions dominating our musical culture have grown nostalgic, obsessing over the past instead of creating the future. In recent months, music companies and investment firms have spent more than $5 billion in buying up the rights to old songs.

They won’t invest even a fraction of that amount in developing new talent—that’s the exact opposite of how the business once worked. You would need to go back to medieval times to find a musical culture so fixated on the past.

I see myself as working counter to the trend. I know many of you feel the same way. But we are swimming upstream. And lately it seems more like a downward deluge than a stream.


It’s not for everybody, but your coolest friends deserve a gift subscription to The Honest Broker this holiday season.

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I spend more time listening to new music than on anything else I do each year. I devote hours every day to this project. In fact, I’ve heard more new music during the last 12 months than during any year of my life. (That’s all the more peculiar because my background is as a music historian—if anyone has an excuse for looking backward, it’s me.)

Sometimes people ask me why I do this. But I believe this is the most important thing I’m doing right now. And that’s because so much of the best new music is hidden away on self-released projects and small indie label releases. Without trustworthy guides, you could miss almost all of it.

And without exciting new music, our entire culture starts to stagnate.

That doesn’t have to happen. The new music scene is glorious, and creative, and exciting. We would all benefit it if the musicians doing this expansive and visionary work were better known. But I don’t want to make this seem like just an advocacy project—listening to this music is also uplifting and fun. If it wasn’t, lists of this sort would have no lasting value.

The end result (below) is a survey of creative new music without genre or stylistic restrictions—encompassing the entire United States, and more than 40 other countries.

By the way, this is just the first installment—the first 50 titles, in alphabetical order, of my 100 favorites of the year. The rest of the list will come your way soon.

Happy listening!

The 100 Best Recordings of 2022 (Part 1 of 2)

In alphabetical order:

Noël Akchoté                      
Philippe Verdelot—Il Primo Libro De Madrigali a Quattro Voci (1533)
Renaissance Madrigals Played on Steel String Guitar by a Jazz Musician

Alabê KetuJazz
Kan
Ritualistic Afro-Brazilian Candomblé Music for Saxophone and Drums

Melissa Aldana
12 Stars
Jazz Saxophony with Fender Rhodes Atmospherics

Matt Andersen
House to House
Canadian Folk & Roots Singer-Songwriter with a Huge Voice

Rich Aucoin
Synthetic Season 1
Insistent Instrumentals Played on Vintage Synthesizers

Bala Desejo
Sim Sim Sim
Danceable Brazilian Pop

Jon Balke
Hafla
Eleventh Century Andalusian Texts Set to Electronica and Jazz Accompaniment

Read more

When does the British system of government work well?

Following my critical post earlier this week, a few of you have asked me this question.  I have at least two conditions to nominate:

1. When social trust in government is relatively high, the notion of “giving one party the chance to rule” will work better.  People may disagree with policy choices made, but they won’t conclude the entire apparatus is illegitimate.  Unfortunately, the Brexit process showed that condition, for whatever reasons, did not hold.  It did hold for most of the 20th century in Britain.

2. When it is clear which reforms are needed in the system.  That was the case when Margaret Thatcher’s rule started, namely that taxes were too high, too many sectors have been nationalized, and the trade unions had too much power.  The associated solutions to those problems were not easy to pull off, but it was easy to see what they might be, at least in broad terms.  These days, one Tory PM cuts taxes and a few weeks later another Tory PM raises them.  Whichever view you think is correct, it seems the right approach is far from obvious.  And in those situations “the right to implement an agenda without many checks and balances” also is worth correspondingly less.

I don’t actually think the British should switch their system of government, as so many of the country’s institutions, for better or worse, are built around “the way things are.”  I think they need to wait until their system of government starts working better again!  Which at some point it will.  But that point is not now.

The post When does the British system of government work well? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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“Fox Sports’ US World Cup Coverage Is An Unmissable Abomination”

There are plenty of problematic things about this year’s World Cup, starting with the human rights situation in the host country, but for US viewers, Fox Sports’ coverage is really stinking up the joint. Aaron Timms burns them down in The Guardian:

In these circumstances you might expect Fox’s coverage of the matches, untroubled by politics, to be razor-sharp. You would be mistaken. From its Orientalist redoubt on the Doha Corniche (Arabesque motifs, casino lighting, no actual Arabs unless they’re from the Qatari tourism agency), the Fox team has set about its task with vigor: to beam all the tournament matches into the living rooms of America while being maximally patronizing to the country’s soccer fans. In those rare moments when Fox is not jamming a brand down our throats (“Here’s the player to watch segment, presented by Coca-Cola”, “Your first-half moment, sponsored by Verizon”, “Our player spotlight is hosted by the Volkswagen ID.4”), the network’s hosts, analysts, and match commentators seem determined to mansplain the sport as if we, the soccer-watching public of the United States, have spent the past four decades with our heads in the desert sands surrounding Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Insults to our collective intelligence have come from all angles: the constant, tedious analogies to American sports (stepovers and feints described as “dekes” and “hesis”, corners constantly compared to “pick and rolls”); the neverending quest to “contextualize” the world game by comparing whole countries to American states (“Qatar is the size of Connecticut,” we were told repeatedly on the opening day); the network’s embrace and promotion of the interminable “it’s called soccer” cause (who cares?); the strange extended segment in the run-up to USA v England about how much Harry Kane likes American football (ditto); the employment of Piers Morgan as a special guest pundit (no thanks).

The “it’s called soccer, no it’s football” thing is beyond stupid — it’s the sort of debate that 4th graders have on the playground. I watched the Netherlands vs. USA match the other day with my friend David and it was so bad we switched the channel to Telemundo even though neither of us speaks Spanish — and you know what, it was better because you could just enjoy the game. (Also, my pet peeve about the coverage: when showing the starting lineups and formations, they do not list the possible subs. The bench players matter, especially on these deep international teams! They come on late in games and score winning goals! Tell us who these people are!)

Tags: 2022 World Cup   Aaron Timms   sports   TV

Apple Adds 700 New Price Points to App Store

Apple Newsroom:

Under the updated App Store pricing system, all developers will have the ability to select from 900 price points, which is nearly 10 times the number of price points previously available for most apps. This includes 600 new price points to choose from, with an additional 100 higher price points available upon request. To provide developers around the world with even more flexibility, price points — which will start as low as $0.29 and, upon request, go up to $10,000 — will offer an enhanced selection of price points, increasing incrementally across price ranges (for example, every $0.10 up to $10; every $0.50 between $10 and $50; etc.). See the table below for details.

One change is that prices can simply end in .00 now — $5 even, say, instead of $4.99. But developers can also go with $4.95 now.

Anyway, this surely ends any and all controversies surrounding Apple’s stewardship of the App Store. More price points, yeah, that’s the ticket.

 ★ 

Three Quick Links for Tuesday Noonish

A version of the Eames' iconic Powers of Ten long zoom film done by Adam Pickard using the DALL·E 2 AI system. [twitter.com]

Time magazine's list of best inventions of 2022. [time.com]

The making of New York magazine's "Reasons to Love New York" cover. The moment I saw the image, I knew it was @PelleCass (who I featured back in 2018); fun to see how he pulled it off. [curbed.com]

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Update: Framing Lumber Prices Close to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Here is another monthly update on framing lumber prices.

This graph shows CME random length framing futures through December 6th.

Lumber was at $413 per 1000 board feet this morning.  

This is down from the peak of $1,733, and down 54% from $907 a year ago.

Prices are close to the pre-pandemic levels of around $400.

Lumber PricesClick on graph for larger image.

There is somewhat of a seasonal demand for lumber, and lumber prices usually peak in April or May, although prices peaked much earlier this year.

It is unlikely we will see a runup in prices as happened at the end of last year due to the housing slowdown.

There was this press release yesterday announcing production cuts "due to very weak market conditions": 
Canfor Corporation (TSX:CFP) is announcing a temporary reduction in Canadian production due to very weak market conditions. The production will be reduced through curtailments at all solid wood facilities in B.C. and Alberta. This will remove approximately 150 million board feet in December and January. The curtailments will start to be implemented on December 19, 2022 and will range from one to four weeks across its Canadian operations. The Company will continue to adjust operating rates to align with market conditions and anticipates that the majority of its BC facilities will operate below full capacity in the New Year.

You got a script

@outstandingscreenplays #DavidLynch screenwriting advice 👌👏 #screenwriter #screenplay #scriptwriting #fyp #author #filmtok #movies #writer #cinema #film ♬ original sound - Outstanding Screenplays

Tuesday assorted links

1. Monkey Cage blog to leave WaPo and relaunch as an independent site.

2. Vitalik on what in the Ethereum application ecosystem excites him right now.

3. Did an ancient human relative, with a much smaller brain, still use fire?

4. Why have movie stars vanished? (NYT)

5. An appreciation of Jeffrey Friedman.

6. ChatGPT on Spielberg’s A.I.

7. The Irish state is 100 years old today (and no one cares!?).

The post Tuesday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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Destroy the World With This Asteroid Launcher Simulation

Creative coder Neal Agarwal has launched his newest project: Asteroid Launcher. You can choose the asteroid’s composition (iron, stone, comet, etc.), size, speed, angle of incidence, and place of impact. Then you click “launch” and see the havoc you’ve wrought upon the world, with all kinds of interesting statistics. I bombarded Los Angeles with an iron asteroid a half-mile across moving at 50,000 mph and the results were significant, as you can see from the fireball it created:

Map showing a (fake) fireball caused by a (fake) asteroid impact in Los Angeles

Some of the most interesting bits about the impact:

  • The crater is 2,087 ft deep.
  • Clothes would catch on fire within 86 miles of the impact.
  • An estimated 4,343,300 people would die from the 249 decibel shock wave.
  • Winds would reach 13,373 mph; within 105 miles it would feel like being inside an EF5 tornado.

Crikey! See also the description of the much more massive meteorite that slammed into the Yucatan peninsula 66 million years ago:

The meteorite itself was so massive that it didn’t notice any atmosphere whatsoever,” said Rebolledo. “It was traveling 20 to 40 kilometers per second, 10 kilometers - probably 14 kilometers — wide, pushing the atmosphere and building such incredible pressure that the ocean in front of it just went away.

And The World’s Loudest Sound:

The sound made by the Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883 was so loud it ruptured eardrums of people 40 miles away, travelled around the world four times, and was clearly heard 3,000 miles away.

Tags: Earth   Neal Agarwal   science

Interrupting Our Lives for Hallucinations Has Been Happening for a Very Long Time

Tom Nichols makes a good point but he misses one critical thing. First, what Nichols gets right (boldface mine):

Even before January 6, 2021, I wondered about the kind of people who live the classic American paranoid life, the citizens whose politics, as Richard Hofstader described them almost 60 years ago, are a stew of “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.” I first encountered this mindset when I worked in the U.S. Senate as personal staff for the late John Heinz of Pennsylvania: I would field calls from constituents who demanded to know whether the senator was in league with the Trilateralists or the Bilderbergers or the one-worlders. I was barely 30 and taken aback at speaking with people who seemed to be living on some other planet.

…As I followed these [insurrection] trials, I kept thinking of a scene from the HBO World War II miniseries Band of Brothers. At the end of the European war, an American soldier named Webster is riding in the back of an open truck, watching the defeated German prisoners trudging along the road. In a fit of rage, he begins shouting at them, “What were you thinking? … Dragging our asses halfway around the world, interrupting our lives. For what? You ignorant, servile scum! What the fuck are we doing here?”

During the Oath Keepers’ trial, I found myself wanting to yell at the television like Private Webster: For what? The life of a great democracy was endangered why? I wasn’t doing this because Rhodes and his band were the Axis, but because, like Webster, I found it incredible that we had to interrupt our lives for a movement built on lies and political hallucinations….

And just what did the Oath Keepers intend to do had they won the day? Perhaps they expected Donald Trump to strut out onto the south balcony and declare martial law. Maybe they thought that they would march into Congress and be greeted as liberators, perhaps with medals bestowed by one of the rebel princesses. But in the end, it was a rebellion about nothing. Or, more precisely, it was a rebellion born in affluence and boredom and a desperate search for meaning in otherwise ordinary lives.

I’ve written before about the threat to democracy stemming from this profound need to feel in control, to feel important, to find some heroic mission in life. I have long been haunted by the writer Eric Hoffer’s 1951 warning that the most dangerous people in a society are not the poor and desperate but the well-off and bored:

There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers among the bored than among the exploited and suppressed. To a deliberate fomenter of mass upheavals, the report that people are bored stiff should be at least as encouraging as that they are suffering from intolerable economic or political abuses.

…Such aimless people are at the foundation of the global crisis that modern democracy is in. They believe that they are the enlightened and brave among us, because they need to feel enlightened and brave instead of confused and frightened. They need a purpose in life and they are shopping for one among the dumpsters of the internet and television, egged on by political opportunists who would gladly waste their lives—and ours—for their own advancement.

The problem is that January 6th, or, for that matter, Trump, is part of a long-standing, ongoing procession of batshit lunacy. Did the claims that ‘Sharia law’ would reign over these United States come to pass? Did gay marriage ‘undermine the sanctity of marriage’? (straight politicians seem to do their part to undermine marriage all by their lonesomes). All of the conspiracies about Bill Clinton dissolved into a tawdry affair. There is all sorts of lunacy pumped into the body politic from the right, and it never ends.

It is exhausting–which is entirely the point (boldface mine):

What stopped me in my tracks was his [Biden’s] obviously correct acknowledgment that “silence is complicity”—as a means of calling out the many Republicans who have refused to distance themselves from a former president who casually dines with Nazi enthusiasts. But the corollary, of course, is that the rest of us should not be silent, and yet I confess that if ever I have to say one more single word about Ye, Trump, Jones, Tucker Carlson, or any other racist oxygen-hogs, I will catch fire like a former drummer from Spinal Tap. My silence is not complicity, it is some combination of exhaustion, boredom, and a line-in-the-sand refusal to engage with idiots….

I can’t watch or listen anymore because every time I do, it steals a part of my soul and giving these monsters even the tiniest corner of our souls is its own violence. But maybe, in lieu of silence, we just keep proclaiming the truth: The Holocaust happened, Hitler was an atrocity, racism is real, the law matters, the former president should probably be in jail, and the fact that we spend vast swaths of our lives saying these things over and over is a tragedy.

A large part of the problem is that there is no accountability for the purveyors of these hallucinations (even Alex Jones is still pumping bile into the discourse). The same people keep doing this over and over, and the same media outlets and personalities keep treating them like they are good faith interlocutors, instead of saying at some point enough, and ignoring them.

I don’t know how to fix that last problem.

Finally, the CDC Asks People to Wear Masks

About fucking time (boldface mine):

The Centers for Disease Control Prevention on Monday encouraged people to wear masks to help reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses this season as Covid, flu and RSV circulate at the same time.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in a call with reporters, said wearing a mask is one of several everyday precautions that people can take to reduce their chances of catching or spreading a respiratory virus during the busy holiday season.

We also encourage you to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses,” said Walensky, adding that people living in areas with high levels of Covid transmission should especially consider masking.

Also, this is good:

The CDC director said the agency is considering expanding its system of Covid community levels to take into account other respiratory viruses such as the flu. The system is the basis for when CDC advises the public to wear masks. But Walensky encouraged people to take proactive action.

They’re continuing to encourage–not that you would know it–people to wear masks while using mass transit (planes, trains, and buses).

It will be interesting to see if the White House tightens its mask wearing policies…

Danny MacAskill’s Postcard From San Francisco

Trials rider and mountain biker Danny MacAskill is one of my long-running obsessions here — I first posted about him all the way back in 2009 and if there’s ever a kottke.org konference, you’d better believe MacAskill will be performing at it. Anyway, MacAskill recently visited San Francisco with Red Bull and explored some of that beautiful city’s most iconic locations on his bike. Wow, the tennis net ride at 2:45 — BONKERS.

This video is actually a trailer of sorts for a 4-episode series that’s available on Red Bull’s site:

Watch as Danny lands a host of new tricks — some five years in the making — in spectacular spots around San Francisco. Then go behind the scenes and learn what this deeply personal edit means to him.

Super Rider (another trials rider) also did a behind-the-scenes video with MacAskill where they go in-depth on the tennis court setup.

Tags: cycling   Danny MacAskill   San Francisco   sports   video

After lunar flyby, NASA’s Orion spacecraft is set to splash down on Sunday

Orion, the Moon, and a crescent Earth on Monday.

Enlarge / Orion, the Moon, and a crescent Earth on Monday. (credit: NASA)

The Orion spacecraft swung by the Moon on Monday, flying to within 130 km of that world's surface as it set course for a return to Earth this weekend.

In making this "powered flyby burn" to move away from the Moon, Orion's service module performed its longest main engine firing to date, lasting 3 minutes and 27 seconds. After successfully completing the maneuver, NASA's mission management team gave the "go" to send recovery teams out into the Pacific Ocean, where Orion is due to splashdown on Sunday, during the middle of the day.

By getting into an orbit around the Moon, and back out of it again during its deep space mission, Orion has now completed four main propulsive burns. This completes a big test of the spacecraft and its propulsive service module, which was built by the European Space Agency. Although a boilerplate version of Orion made a flight in 2014, it did so without a service module.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Q3 Update: Delinquencies, Foreclosures and REO

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: Q3 Update: Delinquencies, Foreclosures and REO

A brief excerpt:
Last year, I pointed out that with the end of the foreclosure moratoriums, combined with the expiration of a large number of forbearance plans, we would see an increase in REOs in late 2022 and into 2023. However, this would NOT lead to a surge in foreclosures and significantly impact house prices (as happened following the housing bubble) since lending has been solid and most homeowners have substantial equity in their homes.
...
Here is some data on REOs through Q3 2022 …
...
FDIC REOsThis graph shows the nominal dollar value of Residential REO for FDIC insured institutions. Note: The FDIC reports the dollar value and not the total number of REOs.

The dollar value of 1-4 family residential Real Estate Owned (REOs, foreclosure houses) increased from $784 million in Q2 2022 to $818 million in Q3 2022. This is increasing, but still very low.
...
The bottom line is there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next year (from record low levels), but it will not be a huge wave of foreclosures as happened following the housing bubble. The distressed sales during the housing bust led to cascading price declines, and that will not happen this time.
There is much more in the article. You can subscribe at https://calculatedrisk.substack.com/

Two Quick Links for Tuesday Morning

Becoming Athletic In My 50s. "Specifically, I felt the pleasure of figuring out what my body — and what my willpower — was capable of." [clivethompson.medium.com]

Middlemarch and Me by @Rebeccamead_NYC. I read Middlemarch for the first time over the summer and loved it. [newyorker.com]

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Trade Deficit increased to $78.2 Billion in October

From the Department of Commerce reported:
The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced today that the goods and services deficit was $78.2 billion in October, up $4.0 billion from $74.1 billion in September, revised.

October exports were $256.6 billion, $1.9 billion less than September exports. October imports were $334.8 billion, $2.2 billion more than September imports.
emphasis added
U.S. Trade Exports Imports Click on graph for larger image.

Exports decreased and imports increased in October.

Exports are up 14% year-over-year; imports are also up 14% year-over-year.

Both imports and exports decreased sharply due to COVID-19 and have now bounced back.

The second graph shows the U.S. trade deficit, with and without petroleum.

U.S. Trade Deficit The blue line is the total deficit, and the black line is the petroleum deficit, and the red line is the trade deficit ex-petroleum products.

Note that net, exports of petroleum products are slightly positive.

The trade deficit with China decreased to $28.9 billion in October, from $31.3 billion a year ago.

The trade deficit was slightly smaller than the consensus forecast.

Chinese commercial methane-fueled rocket set for first launch

A red and white Zhuque-2 rocket erected at the desert Jiuquan spaceport during testing.

Landspace is preparing for a test launch of its Zhuque-2 rocket in what could be a marker for the progress being made by Chinese commercial launch companies.

The post Chinese commercial methane-fueled rocket set for first launch appeared first on SpaceNews.

Test of Time Award: call for nominations

 Test of Time Award

"The SIGecom Test of Time Award recognizes the author or authors of an influential paper or series of papers published between ten and twenty-five years ago that has significantly impacted research or applications exemplifying the interplay of economics and computation.

...

"The 2023 SIGecom Test of Time Award will be given for papers published no earlier than 1998 and no later than 2013. Nominations are due by February 28th, 2023 

...

"The 2022 Test of Time Award Committee: Alvin Roth, Stanford University; Moshe Tennenholtz, The Technion; Noam Nisan (chair), The Hebrew University of Jerusalem"

CoreLogic: House Prices up 10.1% YoY in October; Declined 0.1% MoM in October NSA

Notes: This CoreLogic House Price Index report is for October. The recent Case-Shiller index release was for September. The CoreLogic HPI is a three-month weighted average and is not seasonally adjusted (NSA).

From CoreLogic: US Annual Home Price Growth Slows to Half of Spring 2022 Peak in October, CoreLogic Reports
CoreLogic® ... today released the CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI™) and HPI Forecast™ for October 2022.

Year-over-year home price growth remained in double digits in October, at 10.1%, but continued to cool and was the lowest recorded since early 2021. Several factors are contributing to slowing appreciation: low inventory due to seller preferences to keep affordable mortgage rates that they have already locked in, homebuyer loss of purchase power and current economic uncertainty. Annual U.S. price growth is expected to taper off in the coming months, perhaps moving into negative territory by spring 2023, but then slowly ticking back into single digits as the year progresses.

“Following the recent mortgage rate surge above 7%, real estate activity and consumer sentiment regarding the housing market took a nosedive,” said Selma Hepp, interim lead of the Office of the Chief Economist at CoreLogic. “Home price growth continued to approach single digits in October, and it will move in that direction for the rest of the year and into 2023.”
...
U.S. home prices (including distressed sales) increased 10.1% year over year in October 2022 compared to October 2021. On a month-over-month basis, home prices declined by 0.1% compared to September 2022.
emphasis added

Radar Trends to Watch: December 2022

This month’s news has been overshadowed by the implosion of SBF’s TFX and the possible implosion of Elon Musk’s Twitter. All the noise doesn’t mean that important things aren’t happening. Many companies, organizations, and individuals are wrestling with the copyright implications of generative AI. Google is playing a long game: they believe that the goal isn’t to imitate art works, but to build better user interfaces for humans to collaborate with AI so they can create something new. Facebook’s AI for playing Diplomacy is an exciting new development. Diplomacy requires players to negotiate with other players, assess their mental state, and decide whether or not to honor their commitments. None of these are easy tasks for an AI. And IBM now has a 433 Qubit quantum chip–an important step towards making a useful quantum processor.

Artificial Intelligence

  • Facebook has developed an AI system that plays Diplomacy. Diplomacy is a board game that includes periods for non-binding negotiations between players, leading to collaborations and betrayals. It requires extensive use of natural language, in addition to the ability to understand and maintain relationships with other players.
  • Shutterstock will be collaborating with OpenAI to build a model based on DALL-E that has been trained only on art that Shutterstock has licensed. They will also put in place a plan for compensating artists whose work was used to train the model.
  • Facebook’s large language model for scientific research, Galactica, only survived online for three days. It produced scientific papers that sounded reasonable, but the content was often factually incorrect, including “fake research” attributed to real scientists. It was prone to generating hate research directed against almost any minority.
  • Google has put a Switch Transformers model on HuggingFace. This is a very large Mixture of Experts model (1.6 trillion parameters) that uses many sub-models, routing different tokens to different models. Despite the size, Switch Transformers are relatively fast and efficient.
  • OneAI has launched a Natural Language Processing-as-a-Service service, based on OpenAI’s Whisper model. Whisper is relatively small, impressively accurate, and supports multiple languages.
  • AI governance–including the ability to explain and audit results–is a necessity if AI is going to thrive in an era of declining public trust and increasing regulation.
  • Researches have developed an AI system that learns to identify objects by using a natural language interface to ask humans what they’re seeing. This could be a route towards AI that learns more effectively.
  • Google is developing a human-in-the-loop tool for their large language model LaMDA, designed to help writers interact with AI to create a story. The Wordcraft Writers Workshop is another project about collaborating with LaMDA. “Using LaMDA to write full stories is a dead end.”
  • You didn’t really want a never-ending AI-generated discussion between Werner Herzog and Slavoj Žižek, did you? Welcome to the Infinite Conversation.
  • Code as Policies extends AI code generation to robotics: it uses a large language model to generate Python code for robotic tasks from verbal descriptions. The result is a robot that can perform tasks that it has not been explicitly trained to do. Code is available on GitHub.
  • AskEdith is a natural language interface for databases that converts English into SQL. Copilot for DBAs.
  • Facebook has used AI to build an audio CODEC that is 10 times more efficient than MP3.
  • SetFit is a much smaller language model (1/1600th the size of GPT-3) that allows smaller organizations to build specialized natural language systems with minimal training data.
  • Wide transformer models with fewer attention layers may be able to reduce the size (and power requirements) of large language models while increasing their performance and interpretability.
  • Semi-supervised learning is a partially automated process for labeling large datasets. Starting with a small amount of hand-labeled data, you train a model to label data; use that model; check results for accuracy; and retrain.

Programming

  • DuckDB is a very fast database designed for online analytic processing (OLAP) of small to medium datasets. It runs easily on a laptop and integrates very well with Python.
  • How do you manage SBOM drift? Building a software bill of materials is one thing; keeping it accurate as a project goes through development and deployment is another.
  • Who is using Rust? Time for a study. Nearly 200 companies, including Microsoft and Amazon; Azure’s CTO strongly suggests that developers avoid C or C++ in favor of Rust.
  • What comes after Copilot? Github is looking at voice-to-code: programming without a keyboard.
  • genv is a tool for managing GPU use, an often neglected part of MLOps. Unlike CPUs, they are usually allocated statically, and can’t be reallocated if they’re underused or unused.
  • Multidomain service orchestration could be the next step beyond Kubernetes: orchestration between software components that are running in completely different environments.
  • Rewind, an unreleased product for Macs, claims to record everything you do, see, or hear, so you can look it up later. There are obvious ramifications for privacy and security, though users can start and stop recording. The key technology seems to be extremely effective compression.
  • Progressive delivery for databases? As James Governor points out, database schemas have been left behind by CI/CD. That may be changing.
  • Turbopack, a new Rust-based bundler for Next.js, promises greatly improved performance. Unlike Webpack, Turbopack does incremental builds, and is designed for use in both development and production.
  • Shell scripting never goes out of date. Here are some best practices, starting with “always use bash.”

Security

Quantum Computing

  • Scott Aaronson has posted an “extremely compressed” (3-hour) version of his undergraduate course in Quantum Computing on YouTube. It’s an excellent way to get started.
  • Horizon Quantum Computing is launching a development platform that will let programmers write code in a language like C or C++, and then compile and optimize it for a quantum computer.
  • IBM has created a 433-qubit quantum chip, and updated the Qiskit runtime with improved error correction. This represents a big step forward, though we are still far from usable quantum computing.

Cryptocurrency and Blockchains

  • The Australian Stock Exchanged canceled its 6-year-old blockchain experiment, which would have put most of its work onto a Blockchain-like shared distributed ledger.
  • Vitalik Buterin responds to the FTX failure by hypothesizing about a “proof of solvency” that would be independent of audits and other “fiat” methods. The theme is familiar: can cryptocurrency move closer to trustlessness?
  • One “selling point” of NFTs has been that royalties can be passed to creators on resale of the NFT. However, many marketplaces do not enforce royalty payments, and building royalties into the smart contracts underlying NFTs is close to impossible. Some marketplaces, including Magic Eden and OpenSea, have developed tools for enforcing royalty payments.
  • Infrastructure for renewable energy is bound to be less centralized. Is it an application for a blockchain? Or is a blockchain just a tool for recentralization? Is it creepy when Shell is arguing for decentralization?

Metaverse

  • Can a nation upload itself to the metaverse? At the COP27 climate summit, Tuvalu’s foreign minister proposed, bitterly, that this may be their only solution to global warming, which will put their entire nation underwater. Their geography, culture, and national sovereignty could be preserved in a virtual world.
  • The Dark Forest is a massive multiplayer online game that is based on a blockchain. It is almost certainly the most complex game based on blockchain technology. There is no central server; it may show a way into building a Metaverse that is truly decentralized.
  • When is VR too connected to the real world? Palmer Lucky, founder of Oculus, has built a VR headset that will kill you if you die in the game. While he says this is just “office art,” he seems to believe that devices like this will eventually become real products.
  • The internet developed organically, in ways nobody could have predicted. Ben Evans argues that if the Metaverse happens, it will also develop organically. That isn’t an excuse not to experiment. But it is a reason not to invest too much in conflicting definitions.

Web

  • The flow of users from Twitter to Mastodon means that the ActivityPub protocol (the protocol behind Mastodon’s federated design) is worth understanding. Mastodon won’t (can’t) make the mistake of disenfranchising developers of new clients and other applications.
  • Google is imposing a penalty on AI-generated content in its rankings. While a reduction of 20% seems small, that penalty causes a significant reduction in traffic.

Things

CryWiper Data Wiper Targeting Russian Sites

Kaspersky is reporting on a data wiper masquerading as ransomware that is targeting local Russian government networks.

The Trojan corrupts any data that’s not vital for the functioning of the operating system. It doesn’t affect files with extensions .exe, .dll, .lnk, .sys or .msi, and ignores several system folders in the C:\Windows directory. The malware focuses on databases, archives, and user documents.

So far, our experts have seen only pinpoint attacks on targets in the Russian Federation. However, as usual, no one can guarantee that the same code won’t be used against other targets.

Nothing leading to an attribution.

News article.

Slashdot thread.

Slingshot Aerospace completes $40.8 million funding round

Slingshot Aerospace announced Dec. 6 it has raised $40.8 million in a Series A2 funding round.

The post Slingshot Aerospace completes $40.8 million funding round appeared first on SpaceNews.

Great art explained: Edward Hopper and cinema

Great art explained: Edward Hopper and cinema | Aeon Videos

How Edward Hopper’s lonely, voyeuristic scenes drew on the visual language of the cinema, and were captured in their turn

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

Thriving on Mars

Thriving on Mars | Aeon Essays

Dust storms, long distances and freezing temperatures make living on Mars magnificently challenging. How will we do it?

- by Simon Morden

Read at Aeon

Twitter comes of age

Twitter has reached some all-time highs in the last month.  The first was the coverage of FTX/SBF.  Some of the early MSM coverage was oddly exculpatory, while other pieces seemed pedestrian.  On Twitter, AutismCapital and others tore up a storm.  Every day one learned something exciting, almost unbelievable, and new.  I learned new words such as “polycule.”

The other issue is ChatGPT.  At least as of yesterday (when I composed this post), the NYT hadn’t had a single story about it, and I believe the same is true for WaPo.  There is Bloomberg, which in general is on top of things, and also I have heard of a single Guardian piece.  Wake up people!

Yet every day my Twitter is drenched in ChatGPT, whether analysis or actual chats.  I have learned so much so quickly, and so many other world events seem to have slowed to a crawl.

More than any other time, if you are not on Twitter, you just don’t know what is going on.

Addendum: NYT coverage, finally.

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Papua New Guinea no fact yet of the day

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister says he does not know the exact size of his country’s population after a report suggested that the number of people living in the Pacific nation could be almost twice the official figure.

A new study compiled by the UN Population Fund has implied that Papua New Guinea’s population may have ballooned to 17mn compared with the official figure of 9.4mn, according to a report in The Australian newspaper. James Marape, who was re-elected as Papua New Guinean prime minister in August, told the newspaper he believed that the population could be 11mn but admitted he might be wrong.

The lack of clarity around the size of the country’s population has serious implications for its economic status and raises doubts over its ability to provide services to its people.

If the study, which has not been published, is correct then it would almost halve the country’s gross domestic per capita levels from about 4,000 kina ($1,136), according to Maholopa Laveil, a fellow at the Lowy Institute think-tank and an economics lecturer.

Of course I am rooting for the higher number of people.  Here is the full FT story.

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Tuesday: Trade Deficit

Mortgage Rates From Matthew Graham at Mortgage News Daily: Mortgage Rates Start Lower, But Finish Higher
In addition to Fed anxiety, there was stronger economic data again this morning with a key report on the services sector coming in near the highest levels since earlier this year (a big reversal considering the previous month came in at the lowest levels in more than 2 years).

Strong economic data implies higher rates, all other things being equal. The bond market traded accordingly. By the end of the day, we'd lost enough ground that most mortgage lenders recalled their initial offerings and "re-priced" with higher rates/fees. The net effect was that Monday's rates ended up being close to Friday morning's after having been moderately lower to start the day. [30 year fixed 6.33%]
emphasis added
Tuesday:
• At 8:00 AM: Corelogic House Price index for October.

• At 8:30 AM: Trade Balance report for October from the Census Bureau. The consensus is the trade deficit to be $79.1 billion.  The U.S. trade deficit was at $73.3 billion in September.

The Mickey Mantle ‘Under the Right Field Bleachers’ Letter Is for Sale

Paul Kafasis, writing at One Foot Tsunami:

I’ve actually heard this hilariously vulgar story before, but I had no idea there was a physical artifact written in Mantle’s own hand. Now, incredibly, it’s available for sale. The current bid, at time of publication, is $24,826. Despite the sum involved, I hope whoever wins this auction donates the letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, where it can be displayed publicly. That belongs in a museum!

As a result of this auction, additional details have come out. However, I’m undecided if I believe them. Give the following a read, and decide for yourself.

Baseball collector Keith Olbermann describes the Mantle letter as the second-most obscene piece of memorabilia in the sport’s long (and sordid) history. First place — in Olbermann’s mind — goes to the 1898 “Special Instructions to Players” memo, which, as Letters of Note describes, “was in fact so expletive-laden and obscene as to be “unmailable” to its intended audience via the postal service, and so was delivered by hand to each of the League’s 12 clubs and their foul-mouthed players.”

It’s a close call.

 ★ 

Building a Virtual Machine Inside ChatGPT

Jonas Degrave:

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard of this new ChatGPT assistant made by OpenAI. You might be aware of its capabilities for solving IQ tests, tackling leetcode problems or to helping people write LateX. It is an amazing resource for people to retrieve all kinds of information and solve tedious tasks, like copy-writing!

Today, Frederic Besse told me that he managed to do something different. Did you know, that you can run a whole virtual machine inside of ChatGPT?

There is so much to say about ChatGPT, but perhaps its biggest breakthrough is its statefulness. These are actual conversations where your subsequent commands build on what’s happened previously in the chat.

 ★ 

ChatGPT and A.I. Homework

Ben Thompson, writing at Stratechery:

What has been fascinating to watch over the weekend is how those refinements have led to an explosion of interest in OpenAI’s capabilities and a burgeoning awareness of AI’s impending impact on society, despite the fact that the underlying model is the two-year old GPT-3. The critical factor is, I suspect, that ChatGPT is easy to use, and it’s free: it is one thing to read examples of AI output, like we saw when GPT-3 was first released; it’s another to generate those outputs yourself; indeed, there was a similar explosion of interest and awareness when Midjourney made AI-generated art easy and free (and that interest has taken another leap this week with an update to Lensa AI to include Stable Diffusion-driven magic avatars).

ChatGPT is brand new but already astonishing. Even seemingly silly input can result in remarkable output. I feel like I ought to have something profound to say, but I’m struggling to come up with anything beyond “Wow” for now.

 ★