The True Booty of Pydna

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

J.F.C. Fuller, in A Military History of the Western World, Volume I, explains the true significance of the Roman victory at Pydna, which ended the Third Macedonian War:

Nevertheless, once this ruthlessness ended, the result was not the decay of Greece, but the victory of Hellenism; for the Greeks were the Chinese of the ancient world and always conquered their conquerors. What they needed, in order to exorcise the excessive individualism which had kept them fractionalized and mutually antagonistic, was the authority of a strong and stable world-government. And what Rome needed, in order to become a civilizing world power, was the culture of the Hellenistic world. These two things and not plunder and tribute were the true booty of Pydna and the Third Macedonian War.

No Fish Tale: Thais Catch 646-Pound Fish

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

From No Fish Tale: Thais Catch 646-Pound Fish:

Thai fishermen caught a 646-pound catfish believed to have been the world’s largest freshwater fish ever recorded, a researcher said Thursday.

The 8.9 feet Mekong giant catfish was netted May 1 by villagers in Chiang Khong, a remote district in northern Thailand, and weighed by Thai fisheries department officials, said Zeb Hogan, who leads an international project to locate and study the world’s largest freshwater fish species.

He confirmed it was the heaviest recorded fish since Thailand started keeping records in 1981.

[...]

The fishermen had hoped to sell the fish to environmental groups, which planned to release it to spawn upriver, but it died before it could be handed over, and was later chopped up and sold in pieces to villagers to be eaten.

[...]

The Mekong giant catfish — which shares the title of largest freshwater fish with a close relative, the dog-eating catfish — was listed as endangered in 2003 after research showed its numbers had fallen by at least 80 percent over the past 13 years.

One-Shot Drops: Surviving the Myth

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

One-Shot Drops: Surviving the Myth, from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin, shares a number of shocking examples of handguns not taking down a perp:

In the authors’ ongoing study of violence against law enforcement officers, they have examined several cases where officers used large-caliber hand guns with limited effect displayed by the offenders. In one case, the subject attacked the officer with a knife. The officer shot the individual four times in the chest; then, his weapon malfunctioned. The offender continued to walk toward the officer. After the officer cleared his weapon, he fired again and struck the subject in the chest. Only then did the offender drop the knife. This individual was hit five times with 230-grain, .45-caliber hollow-point ammunition and never fell to the ground. The offender later stated, “The wounds felt like bee stings.”

In another case, officers fired six .40-caliber, hollow-point rounds at a subject who pointed a gun at them. Each of the six rounds hit the individual with no visible effect. The seventh round severed his spinal cord, and the offender fell to the ground, dropping his weapon. This entire firefight was captured by several officers’ in-car video cameras.

In a final case, the subject shot the victim officer in the chest with a handgun and fled. The officer, wearing a bullet-resistant vest, returned gunfire. The officer’s partner observed the incident and also fired at the offender. Subsequent investigation determined that the individual was hit 13 times and, yet, ran several blocks to a gang member’s house. He later said, “I was so scared by all those shots; it sounded like the Fourth of July.” Again, according to the subject, his wounds “only started to hurt when I woke up in the hospital.” The officers had used 9-millimeter, department-issued ammunition.

Rocky Marciano’s Punching Power

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

This article on Rocky Marciano’s Punching Power shares a number of famous boxers’ comments on Rocky’s devastating strength, but I enjoyed this (apocryphal) bit of science from the U.S. Testing Co.:

“Marciano’s knockout blow packs more explosive energy than an armour-piercing bullet and represents as much energy as would be required to spot lift 1000 pounds one foot off the ground.”
Boxing Illustrated, December, 1963

Stopping Power

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Some astounding facts on handgun Stopping Power:

[B]eing shot with a handgun is fatal only about 5% of the time, and result[s] in serious medical damage approximately 15% of the time. It has even been estimated that survival rates after being shot in the heart are roughly 50%.

Overpenetration — shooting through one target and hitting another — isn’t a problem — because hitting the intended target is so unlikely:

And according to NYPD SOP-9 (Standard Operating Procedure #9) data, in the year 2000, only 9% of shots fired by officers engaged in gunfights actually hit perpetrators. In the same year, there were a total of 129 “shooting incidents” (including non-gunfights, such as officers firing at aggressive dogs, unarmed or fleeing perpetrators, etc.), 471 total shots fired by officers, 367 shots fired at perpetrators, and 58 total hits on perpetrators by police. So when non-gunfight shooting data is added, the rate at which police hit what they aim at in real life situations is still only 15.8%.

Super-Sized Strawman

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Super-Sized Strawman lists some facts about minimum wage:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 63 percent of workers who make the minimum wage or less receive raises that put them above the minimum-wage level within one year of employment. Only 15 percent of workers still earn the minimum wage after a period of three years.

Are there teeming masses of starving minimum-wage earners throughout the nation? Actually, minimum-wage-earners comprise only 3.0 percent of all workers paid by the hour in the United States and only 1.8 percent of American wage and salary earners .

A great portion of minimum wage-earners are young people — more than business-bashing activists would have you believe. ‘Just three out of 10 of those earning minimum wage are youths,’ writes left-wing columnist Mark Shields. ‘Seventy percent of minimum-wage earners are adults ages 20 or older.’ Shields’s use of the word youths is misleading.

It’s true that 27.5 percent of minimum-wage-earners are sixteen- to nineteen years old. But it’s equally true that those ranging in ages sixteen to twenty-four make up 52.6 percent of minimum-wage workers.

According to a July 2004 study by Joseph Sabia and Richard Burkhauser, only 5.3 percent of U.S. minimum-wage-earners come from households that are below the official U.S. poverty line. Some 40 percent of U.S. minimum-wage-earners live in households where the total yearly income is at least triple the maximum amount of income a household can receive and still be classified as being below the poverty line. And 63 percent of those who earn the minimum wage are not the highest income-earner in their household.

Finally, over 82 percent of minimum-wage-earners are childless or are not the highest income-earner of their household.

From Rental Cars to CEOs: A Review of ‘Freaky’ Research

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Alex Tabarrok and Bryan Caplan share the stage in WSJ.com‘s latest “Econoblog” column, From Rental Cars to CEOs: A Review of ‘Freaky’ Research.

To Fight Avian Flu, Dutch Farmer Takes Unusual Skills to Asia

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Gruesome. From To Fight Avian Flu, Dutch Farmer Takes Unusual Skills to Asia:

As a 5-year-old on his family’s farm in the Netherlands, Harm Kiezebrink wondered why his father instructed him to drown newly hatched male chicks in a large plastic drum inside the hatchery.

The answer: male chicks are slaughtered because they won’t be able to lay eggs and because they will be too scrawny for meat.

Mr. Kiezebrink grew up to become an expert in this unusual field. Today, his family company sells killed chicks to zoos and falconers. And it has developed technology for efficiently killing birds.

Now he is also taking his skills to some places that need them urgently: Asian nations fighting bird flu. He has brought them some of his bird-slaughtering machines, such as the AED-100, which kills about 10,000 birds per hour, catching them by the feet and dragging their heads through an electrified pool of water.

Tomorrow’s Planes: Higher Humidity, Mood Lighting

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Tomorrow’s Planes: Higher Humidity, Mood Lighting explains some upcoming passenger-comfort improvements:

The wide-body — a Boeing 787 that will fly for the first time in 2007 — will be the first big transport plane with a fuselage built of composite plastics instead of aluminum. Composites are stronger and won’t corrode, and those are big advantages in aircraft design. You’ll feel the difference in the cabin.

Boeing’s 787 offers travelers significant improvements in the cabin’s atmosphere, including more humid air quality and light-adjusting windows (below).

Boeing Co. says the composites allow the 787 to have a lot more humidity in the cabin — about 20% relative humidity compared with a Sahara-like 4% or so in long-haul wide-body planes today. Travelers won’t feel as dry and contact lenses won’t be as scratchy.

What is more, the pressure in the cabin can be set to the equivalent of about 6,000 feet above sea level, instead of today’s 8,000 feet, because the airplane’s frame is stronger. It’s roughly the difference between Denver and Vail, a difference I feel when flying in an unpressurized single-engine prop plane. If I cruise at 8,000 feet, I arrive more tired than at lower altitudes because the air is thinner at higher altitudes.

Can a People Have Too Much Respect for the Law?

Monday, June 27th, 2005

William Hepworth Dixon, an English barrister, visited the United States in 1867 and wrote a book, New America, about his experiences. In Can a People Have Too Much Respect for the Law?, Lee Harris explains that Dixon found Americans agreeable — except for one flaw:

Yet there was one aspect of our national character that disagreed with him. Our ‘deference to the Law, and to every one who wears the semblance of lawful authority, is so complete…as to occasion a traveler some annoyance and more surprise,’ Dixon wrote. ‘Every dog in office is obeyed with such unquestioning meekness, that every dog in office is tempted to become a cur.’

Dixon singled out the Justices of the Supreme Court, noting with apparent dismay that they are ‘treated with a degree of respect akin to that which is paid to an archbishop in Madrid and to a cardinal in Rome.’ Then he concludes with an admonition:

‘More than once I have ventured to tell my friends, that this habit of deferring to law and lawful authority, good in itself, has gone with them into extremes, and would lead them, should they let it, into the frame of mind for yielding to the usurpation of any bold despot who may assail their liberties, like Caesar, in the name of law and order.’

The Challenges for ‘Active’ Safety

Monday, June 27th, 2005

The Challenges for ‘Active’ Safety looks at the next wave of auto safety devices:

Infiniti is already offering on its FX sport utility vehicle a system that warns the driver when he or she wanders out of the lane without signaling.

One benefit of these systems, besides helping dozing drivers from wandering off the pavement, is that they encourage wide-awake motorists to signal lane changes. UMTRI researcher Jim Sayer said a study found that motorists in a vehicle equipped with a lane-departure warning system were 30% less likely to dodge into the left lane without signaling, and 35% less likely to make an unsignaled lane shift to the right.

Swim, Bike, Run — Repeat

Monday, June 27th, 2005

Swim, Bike, Run — Repeat tells three older triathletes’ stories. I thought 70-year-old Roger Brockenbrough’s story was fairly impressive:

I spent 30 years as a structural engineer with U.S. Steel and got out at 57. I started a one-man company and work half-time, and now I do 10 to 12 triathlons a year.

My first was in 1985, when I was 51. My oldest son, John, was getting into it, so I trained with him for a couple of years. I jumped into a local race, got a plastic trophy and have been hooked ever since.

That was only impressive until I read Ken O’Grady’s over-the-top story:

It wasn’t until after my right leg was amputated and I had open-heart surgery that I began competing in triathlons. At 61 years old, I entered the Tom Landry Triathlon — and training for it saved my life.

And You Trust the TSA to Protect You?

Monday, June 27th, 2005

Jacob Sullum contrasts American and Israeli airport security in And You Trust the TSA to Protect You?:

My family and I flew to Israel last week on El Al, but we bought our tickets through Delta, which flew us from Reagan National to JFK. Delta let us check our luggage in D.C. for the whole trip, which surprised me, because El Al usually has its own security screening. It turned out that the bags were supposed to be screened again in New York, which no one mentioned until we were about to board the plane for Tel Aviv. At that point an El Al security guy whisked me into the bowels of the airport to identify our bags and answer questions about them. He explained that we could not get on the flight with the bags until they had been cleared by the airline. When I mentioned that the luggage had already been screened by the TSA in D.C., he laughed and said, ‘And you trust the TSA to protect you?’ While American air travel security is just for show, he said, the Israeli version is for real.

All About Mormons

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

A Tale of Two Prophets contrasts the bottom-line results of Marxism and Mormonism:

In the middle of the nineteenth century, two bearded prophets appeared who made a universal appeal to the poor and downtrodden of the earth. One lived in London, and his name was Karl Marx. One lived in Salt Lake City, and his name was Brigham Young. One, Marx, had science on his side. The other had the Book of Mormon. Marx argued that he had determined the iron laws that govern the movement of history, and told the poor and downtrodden, ‘Organize socialist parties, and try to overthrow the capitalist system.’ Brigham Young told the wretched immigrants who showed up on his door step in Salt Lake City, at the end of the weary and dangerous journey across the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, ‘Go first and plant vegetables. Learn to feed yourself by the sweat of your own brow.’

Of the two men, Marx had by far the greatest following. The Communist Manifesto, after all, was a much more cogent and compelling work than the bizarre text transcribed by Joseph Smith under the guidance of the angel Moroni. Yet whose prophecy has proved more fruitful? Go visit Russia and see what Marx’s followers achieved, then travel halfway across the earth to visit Salt Lake City.
[...]
The American philosophy known as pragmatism should best be understood as a method by which intellectuals can try to come to terms with the religions of hard work. It looks at a figure like Brigham Young and it says, “I grant you that there is much that is frankly silly and absurd about Mormonism. Yet look at what the Mormons were able to do. They took a desert and transformed it into a garden.”

Matt Stone and Trey Parker note the same thing, and voice it through Mormon-kid Gary, in All About Mormons:

Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life. and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.

We Are Our History — Don’t Forget It

Friday, June 24th, 2005

We Are Our History — Don’t Forget It shares an amusing anecdote:

My son told me about a high school event that (at first) I didn’t understand. A girl in his English class praised the Vietnam War-era draft dodgers: ‘If I’d lived at that time and been drafted,’ she said, ‘I would’ve gone to Canada too.’

I thought she was merely endorsing the anti-war position. But my son set me straight. This student actually believed that if she had lived at the time, she might have been drafted. She didn’t understand that conscription in the United States has always applied to males only.

Frankly, that’s not half as bad as the doozies I can remember from high school:

“I don’t understand. If we live in a democracy, why aren’t we all Democrats?” — Amy S.

“It says here that Achilles is half god. What’s the other half?” — Kara P.