The Truth About the Pay Gap

Monday, April 30th, 2007

The Truth About the Pay Gap does not lend itself to moral outrage:

As the report acknowledges, women with college degrees tend to go into fields like education, psychology and the humanities, which typically pay less than the sectors preferred by men, such as engineering, math and business. They are also more likely than men to work for nonprofit groups and local governments, which do not offer salaries that Alex Rodriguez would envy.

As they get older, many women elect to work less so they can spend time with their children. A decade after graduation, 39 percent of women are out of the work force or working part time — compared with only 3 percent of men. When these mothers return to full-time jobs, they naturally earn less than they would have if they had never left.

Even before they have kids, men and women often do different things that may affect earnings. A year out of college, notes AAUW, women in full-time jobs work an average of 42 hours a week, compared to 45 for men. Men are also far more likely to work more than 50 hours a week.
[...]
Take out the effects of marriage and child-rearing, and the difference between the genders suddenly vanishes. “For men and women who never marry and never have children, there is no earnings gap,” she said in an interview.

Drive Fast, Save the World

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Drive Fast, Save the World talks about the electric Tesla roadster and the chief engineer behind it:

JB Straubel, in 1999 an emerging superstar in Stanford University’s school of engineering, had been haunting the student machine shop, fabricating parts for his ’84 Porsche 944 from midnight until 4 in the morning. Working by trial and error, he developed his own power controller and charger. He mated together two electric motors with a homemade coupler and belt system. He gutted the car and crammed in 840 pounds’ worth of lead-acid batteries. Start to finish, the project took him a year.

By early 2000, Straubel had taken a piece of once-state-of-the-art German engineering and transmogrified it into a pretty advanced science-fair project: The World’s Fastest Electric Car. Or so he hoped. With 180 kilowatts at his disposal (about 240 horsepower), the car had enough power, he estimated, to set an electric-vehicle world record for the quarter mile. Just one problem: Total range was 20 miles. What good is it, he figured, to build an all-electric emission-free dragster, if you’re just going to tow it to the racetrack on the back of a big truck?

And so Straubel set about doing what any driven, somewhat obsessive-compulsive engineering graduate student would do. He bought a Volkswagen Beetle for $500, chopped it in two with a shop saw, and used a trailer hitch to attach the back half — the part with the engine and driven wheels — to the rear of the Porsche. He ran a remote throttle and ignition from the VW to the Porsche’s driver’s seat. From there, he sat and steered while his mongrelized single-axle trailer pushed the 944 down the road.

Climate change hits Mars

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Climate change hits Mars:

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

Grayson

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I only just now found out about Grayson, a 2004 fan film made by a guy named John Fiorella to show off his filmmaking abilities.

The film presents a world after the golden age of superheroes. Batman has been murdered, and Dick Grayson takes up the mantle of Robin once more to track down the killers.

Watch the video. Fiorella manages a lot with no budget.

The Truth About the Pay Gap

Monday, April 30th, 2007

The Truth About the Pay Gap does not lend itself to moral outrage:

As the report acknowledges, women with college degrees tend to go into fields like education, psychology and the humanities, which typically pay less than the sectors preferred by men, such as engineering, math and business. They are also more likely than men to work for nonprofit groups and local governments, which do not offer salaries that Alex Rodriguez would envy.

As they get older, many women elect to work less so they can spend time with their children. A decade after graduation, 39 percent of women are out of the work force or working part time — compared with only 3 percent of men. When these mothers return to full-time jobs, they naturally earn less than they would have if they had never left.

Even before they have kids, men and women often do different things that may affect earnings. A year out of college, notes AAUW, women in full-time jobs work an average of 42 hours a week, compared to 45 for men. Men are also far more likely to work more than 50 hours a week.
[...]
Take out the effects of marriage and child-rearing, and the difference between the genders suddenly vanishes. “For men and women who never marry and never have children, there is no earnings gap,” she said in an interview.

Drive Fast, Save the World

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Drive Fast, Save the World talks about the electric Tesla roadster and the chief engineer behind it:

JB Straubel, in 1999 an emerging superstar in Stanford University’s school of engineering, had been haunting the student machine shop, fabricating parts for his ’84 Porsche 944 from midnight until 4 in the morning. Working by trial and error, he developed his own power controller and charger. He mated together two electric motors with a homemade coupler and belt system. He gutted the car and crammed in 840 pounds’ worth of lead-acid batteries. Start to finish, the project took him a year.

By early 2000, Straubel had taken a piece of once-state-of-the-art German engineering and transmogrified it into a pretty advanced science-fair project: The World’s Fastest Electric Car. Or so he hoped. With 180 kilowatts at his disposal (about 240 horsepower), the car had enough power, he estimated, to set an electric-vehicle world record for the quarter mile. Just one problem: Total range was 20 miles. What good is it, he figured, to build an all-electric emission-free dragster, if you’re just going to tow it to the racetrack on the back of a big truck?

And so Straubel set about doing what any driven, somewhat obsessive-compulsive engineering graduate student would do. He bought a Volkswagen Beetle for $500, chopped it in two with a shop saw, and used a trailer hitch to attach the back half — the part with the engine and driven wheels — to the rear of the Porsche. He ran a remote throttle and ignition from the VW to the Porsche’s driver’s seat. From there, he sat and steered while his mongrelized single-axle trailer pushed the 944 down the road.

Climate change hits Mars

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Climate change hits Mars:

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

Grayson

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I only just now found out about Grayson, a 2004 fan film made by a guy named John Fiorella to show off his filmmaking abilities.

The film presents a world after the golden age of superheroes. Batman has been murdered, and Dick Grayson takes up the mantle of Robin once more to track down the killers.

Watch the video. Fiorella manages a lot with no budget.

You Are What You Grow

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

In You Are What You Grow, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, notes that you can buy the most calories per dollar in the middle aisles of the supermarket, where all the processed food is:

This perverse state of affairs is not, as you might think, the inevitable result of the free market. Compared with a bunch of carrots, a package of Twinkies, to take one iconic processed foodlike substance as an example, is a highly complicated, high-tech piece of manufacture, involving no fewer than 39 ingredients, many themselves elaborately manufactured, as well as the packaging and a hefty marketing budget. So how can the supermarket possibly sell a pair of these synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes for less than a bunch of roots?

For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation, which comes around roughly every five years and is about to do so again, sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system. Among other things, it determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat — three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.

That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.

Definitely read the whole article.

You Are What You Grow

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

In You Are What You Grow, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, notes that you can buy the most calories per dollar in the middle aisles of the supermarket, where all the processed food is:

This perverse state of affairs is not, as you might think, the inevitable result of the free market. Compared with a bunch of carrots, a package of Twinkies, to take one iconic processed foodlike substance as an example, is a highly complicated, high-tech piece of manufacture, involving no fewer than 39 ingredients, many themselves elaborately manufactured, as well as the packaging and a hefty marketing budget. So how can the supermarket possibly sell a pair of these synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes for less than a bunch of roots?

For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation, which comes around roughly every five years and is about to do so again, sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system. Among other things, it determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat — three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.

That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.

Definitely read the whole article.

Tim Ferriss at SXSW

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

If you find the notion of the four-hour workweek intriguing, listen to this audio of Tim Ferriss at SXSW.

One-Wheel Wonder

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Ralph Kinney Bennett praises the One-Wheel Wonder:

Somewhere in ancient China, possibly in the 1st century B.C., a wagon or a horse cart carrying supplies in a military column was smashed to pieces in an accident. A soldier moving the damaged wagon out of the way picked up a shattered section which was still attached to one wheel. Using the wheel, he propelled the piece of wreckage off the roadway and as he did so he experienced one of those little practical epiphanies that have meant so much to civilization.

Rather than pick up and carry the rest of the wreckage and the contents of the wagon off the road, he balanced them on his impromptu one-wheeled ‘tool’ and swiftly cleared the way. Thus, perhaps, was born one of the most elegant and useful tools ever invented by man – the wheelbarrow.

The exact time and place of this ingenious mating of the principle of the lever and the mobility of the wheel cannot be exactly determined, shrouded as it is in the mist of time and legend. A Chinese general, Chuko Liang (181-234 A.D.) is often credited with the invention of the wheelbarrow and its subsequent use transporting military supplies. The Chinese army reportedly found that this device gave it such a logistical advantage that it tried to keep it a military secret for as long as possible.
[...]
Europeans seem to have come late to the wheelbarrow game but they vastly improved its capabilities by refining the design. References or depictions of wheelbarrows do not appear in Europe until the late 12th and early 13th centuries. But the European models were very different from the Chinese. They exploited the leverage principle to a much greater degree by simply moving the wheel to the front of the load and making it of smaller diameter. In addition, the European wheelbarrows had long handles, curved in various fashions to aid in lifting and balancing loads.

Get the Best Education in the World, Absolutely Free!

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Bryan Caplan notes again that you can Get the Best Education in the World, Absolutely Free!:

The best education in the world is already free of charge. Just go to the best university in the world and start attending classes. Stay as long as you want, and study everything that interests you. No one will ever ‘card’ you. The only problem is that, no matter how much you learn, there won’t be any record you were ever there.

Robin Hanson actually did just that:

As a researcher at NASA Ames Lab in the late 1980s, I found it easy to sit in on classes at nearby Stanford. I sat in on many classes in many departments, participating often in class discussions. I never applied for admission, or paid tuition, but no one ever complained. One professor even wrote me a letter of recommendation based on my work for his class.

So anyone can learn at the very best schools for free, if they are willing to forego the credential. This free ride would probably stop if more than a few people took advantage of it. But in fact almost no one is actually interested in just learning, without the credential.

As Caplan notes, “we have another deep puzzle that the signaling model of education can explain, and the human capital model can’t.”

Tim Ferriss at SXSW

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

If you find the notion of the four-hour workweek intriguing, listen to this audio of Tim Ferriss at SXSW.

One-Wheel Wonder

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Ralph Kinney Bennett praises the One-Wheel Wonder:

Somewhere in ancient China, possibly in the 1st century B.C., a wagon or a horse cart carrying supplies in a military column was smashed to pieces in an accident. A soldier moving the damaged wagon out of the way picked up a shattered section which was still attached to one wheel. Using the wheel, he propelled the piece of wreckage off the roadway and as he did so he experienced one of those little practical epiphanies that have meant so much to civilization.

Rather than pick up and carry the rest of the wreckage and the contents of the wagon off the road, he balanced them on his impromptu one-wheeled ‘tool’ and swiftly cleared the way. Thus, perhaps, was born one of the most elegant and useful tools ever invented by man – the wheelbarrow.

The exact time and place of this ingenious mating of the principle of the lever and the mobility of the wheel cannot be exactly determined, shrouded as it is in the mist of time and legend. A Chinese general, Chuko Liang (181-234 A.D.) is often credited with the invention of the wheelbarrow and its subsequent use transporting military supplies. The Chinese army reportedly found that this device gave it such a logistical advantage that it tried to keep it a military secret for as long as possible.
[...]
Europeans seem to have come late to the wheelbarrow game but they vastly improved its capabilities by refining the design. References or depictions of wheelbarrows do not appear in Europe until the late 12th and early 13th centuries. But the European models were very different from the Chinese. They exploited the leverage principle to a much greater degree by simply moving the wheel to the front of the load and making it of smaller diameter. In addition, the European wheelbarrows had long handles, curved in various fashions to aid in lifting and balancing loads.