Monday, October 20, 2014

Coffee and Provocation

The Continuing Crisis
Farmers are switching from tobacco to chick peas for hummus.

It Was Not Tony Soprano, Honest
A 22-year old hiker was apparently killed by a black bear in New Jersey near West Milford.

Can Rats Run a Hedge Fund?
Michael Marcovici’s Rat Trader describes the training of laboratory rats to trade in foreign exchange and commodity futures markets. Marcovici says the rats “outperformed some of the world’s leading human fund managers.” The rats were trained to press a red or green button to give buy or sell signals, after listening to ticker tape movements represented as sounds. If they called the market right they were fed, if they called it wrong they got a small electric shock. Male and female rats performed equally well. The second generation of rattraders, cross-bred from the best performers in the first generation, appeared to have even better performance, although this is a preliminary result.

Solar as Ubiquitous as Cell Phones?
The Washington Post notes that:  "In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones. McKinsey & Company noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant. It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units, and advised AT&T to pull out. McKinsey was wrong, of course. There were more than 100 million cellular phones in use 2000; there are billions now. Costs have fallen so far that even the poor — all over world — can afford a cellular phone. The experts are saying the same about solar energy now. They note that after decades of development, solar power hardly supplies 1 percent of the world’s energy needs. They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies. They too are wrong. Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are. Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years — as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target. But, by Kurzweil’s estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years. Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.

Win Turbines vs. Cats
One kills about 300,000 birds a year, the other about 3,000,000,000.  Guess which one we feed?

Stupid on a Stick
An astonishing 64 percent of Americans cannot name the three branches of government.

Flatter Than Kansas?
Kansas is not flatter than a pancake.  In fact, Kansas is not even the flattest state. Six other states are flatter, including Florida. Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, Delaware,

Smarter Mice?
We can make smarter mice by putting a single human gene in their brain.  Should we be doing this?

Basement Man Cave
For Walter Mitty who wishes he had a cabin in the Maine woods.

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