vivere est cogitare

Tag: airplanes

Ich bin ein Berliner

As a matter of principle I believe it is important to evaluate all information from primary sources when making decisions of significance (e.g. the presidential election, the question of whether the event is actually significant notwithstanding, i.e. accepting the assumption that it is). This is the only way to avoid being misled by deliberate or accidental misinformation. Examples of the former include basically anything from Faux News, anything out of the Bush administration regarding FISA/PAA, and so on. Of the latter, a general example would be inaccurate popular science, such as the “Equal Transit theory.”

But a tremendous hindrance exists, making this principle difficult to put into practice: we (as a people) are not well educated. To be sure, many of us will come to be proficient in a particular discipline, while some will never be very knowledgeable about anything at all. But we are called upon to make decisions that would ideally require extensive knowledge in practically every discipline. This makes it incredibly difficult to evaluate all issues with which we will be faced, unless we manage to confine ourselves to a world in which all we have to decide is whether Britney Spears should ever have more children.

For instance, who actually understands global warming? In attempting to weigh the consensus view against dissenting ones, I realized that I don’t know the first thing about how to analyze or approach the data. And I would be highly skeptical of anyone who claims to understand the scientific bases of the global warming issue, unless they are able to support such a claim by explaining the mathematics behind the models.

denaturing, annealing and extending

I’ve been trying to get around to a new post but I just haven’t had the time.

There’s an interesting thread on xkcd discussing the relative merits of welfare, which I found to be a pretty good read. A really fundamental assumption that is always made when talking about whether welfare is good, will work, etc. is the assumption that people will behave as you think they will. This is not always as simple as one might be inclined to believe.

Mythbusters recently ran an episode focusing on the internet’s beloved airplane on a conveyor belt question. Having read a few very long threads on this question, I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of people who, having been presented with the reasons why the plane definitely does take off, still believe that the plane does not take off:

1. Stupid people.
2. People who have misunderstood the problem.

The first kind are often beyond remedy. Some simply lack a fundamental understanding of physics; those can be taught. However the second kind are evidence that this particular question is vulnerable to confusion or lack of specificity/clarity. Often, constraints are assumed despite not being stated explicitly (that the plane must be stationary relative to the ground is one such assumption; it is never stated in any version of this problem that this must be the case – many simply fail to consider the problem carefully and leap to this assumption). Other times, the question is simply stated poorly (saying that the conveyor belt matches the speed of the wheels is a recipe for disaster, unless you subscribe to a universe which allows infinite speed and acceleration).

Edit: I will also leave a space for the people who understand the problem and simply state that it is possible to construct a system in which the plane does not take off; however the result of such an arrangement does not represent any reasonably designed airplane and thus such a case need not be considered. Essentially it must have incredibly high friction at the bearings where the axle meets the wheel. Disregarding momentarily the ludicrousness of the problem itself, it only makes sense to consider airplanes designed reasonably – one likewise would not consider, for instance, an airplane without engines or wings, etc.

Also, BioRad is the best.

Lately EVE has been getting more attention from my computer. The politics and history thereof in this game are really interesting. Film at ‘leven.