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I Find Your Lack of Sources Disturbing

A lot of people make a lot of noise about global warming, saying the scientists are lying just for fame/fortune. They point to stolen emails (neglecting the egregious invasion of privacy necessary to get the emails) and say "Aha you fools! We've got you now with this one short, out of context blurb from an illegally obtained email that, in it's entirety, was saying something entirely benign!"  The blatant hypocrisy would be amusing if it weren't so sad. But I didn't figure a genuine news outlet would outright lie. Well funded think tanks, sure. Certain Super PAC's you bet. There is a web of misinformation they like to spread. But news media, even horribly biased news media, wouldn't stoop to outright lying. Or at least, I didn't think so until I read this article in the daily mail.

The article clearly states that the Met (UK's national weather bureau), in conjunction with the University of East Anglia (where those emails were stolen from) released temperature data that clearly shows the world has not been warming up these past 15 years. This would be a bit of a shock, since every comprehensive set of temperature data I've ever heard of, including from both of those sources, shows a marked increase in temperature over the past few decades. One would imagine that the Daily Mail would just love to point everyone to this juicy bit of information. Which they sorta did. You see, while the article certainly makes numerous claims, there is not one source cited.

This isn't really a surprise. There are a number of news organizations that habitually refrain from citing their sources. No biggie. We have Google. But that didn't work this time. I looked every where. I scoured the websites of both institutions. I Googled endless iterations of "east anglia met temperature data new"  but to no avail. There was nothing, anywhere, that I could find that would in any way support the validity of this article. Go ahead, look for yourself. 

Neither of these two places have anything even remotely similar to what this article describes. I have been unable to find any report or release of data. Every promising lead, every blog and aggregator that mentioned this story, lead back to the article in the Daily Mail. The information contained in both places, UEA and the Met, completely contradicts what the article claims about the temperature trend. The author clearly stated that this was a public release of data. I should have found it. If it existed.  

I was about to call it a night, due diligence has been served,  research conducted, end of story. That is, of course, until I found this: a report from the Met Office titled "Decline in solar output unlikely to offset global warming". How in the world is that connected to an article about the Earth cooling off? Well, you see, the Daily Mail figures that the Sun is reaching a minimum level of activity, and since the Sun has a big influence on our climate, this would inevitably mean the Thames river would freeze. As far as I can tell, all the quotes from the article come from the paper I linked at the beginning of the paragraph.  However, there was no mention of new temperature data in that paper. Nothing. 

I looked everywhere I could think of to find the data that the Daily Mail article mentions. I could not. Everything I found from both the Met and U of East Anglia completely contradicted what the article said about the recent temperature trend. The only thing I found that in any way validated the articles accuracy is a paper discussing the marginal cooling effect we may experience from the Sun, and how this effect would not be close to helping deter human caused global temperature increases. As far as I can tell, the Daily Mail took that paper about the Sun, conflated it with an outright lie regarding a new release of data that says the globe is cooling down, and spun it into an inflammatory pile of denialist bullshit. 

[As an aside: Yes, the Sun has the largest effect on our climate. If it turned off, we'd freeze. If it suddenly got twice as hot we'd fry. And yes, the Sun does have variations, even huge cyclical variations, in it energy output. And yes, this does have an effect on Earth. No one seriously thinks the Sun does not have an effect on our climate. But the Sun is pretty regular. It varies, yes, but not to a degree that would have anything more than a marginal effect on the average global temperature.



There are a large number of sites that are engaging in voluntary, partial or total blackouts in protest against two bills currently in congress, Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. These bills are an attempt to reduce the amount of digital piracy of American products by foreign malefactors. To achieve this, and recognizing that we cannot stop such piracy at it's source (foreign soil), these acts bar American owned sites from engaging in business with these groups in an attempt to make pirating American digital media unprofitable. 

There is a wide consensus that such unrestrained piracy does need to be curtailed. However, there is a growing dissent about how that curtailment should be carried out. A large number of people, organizations, and companies disagree with the manner in which SOPA and PIPA will attain their goals. It has been claimed that these acts will allow spurious claims to close down legitimate websites, that the burden of proof will shift to those accused, and that, by forcing Internet Service Providers to block service to websites accused of copyright infringement, assumes the guilt of the accused prior to any judicial proceedings.  

Proponents of the measure say that both clearly target websites who's primary purpose is piracy, meaning that sites such as Reddit, Youtube, or Wikipedia will not be affected by these acts. Proponents also argue that the bill is for those who, were they based the U.S., would be in violation of copyright laws. This would mean that American sites would not have any laws change that apply to them, and that foreign websites would be held up to the same copyright standards as American websites. 

Harvard Law Review
Talking Points Memo
Adam Savage via Popular Mechanics



I have been reading a blog called Behind The Black by Robert Zimmerman for some time now. I find we have some things in common. He posts cool stuff about space! Plus a whole host of other stuff ranging from awesome college football plays to interesting comments on topical issues. Unfortunately I must disagree with his stance on climate change. As level headed as he seems when it comes to understanding the intricacies of NASA contracts and how they will effect the emerging private space sector is a stark contrast to his blind devotion to climate change denial. I have for the most part refrained from making arguments against his position. It's his blog and his opinion. Though I will correct the more egregious paraphrases and misinterpretations. But for the most I keep my opinion to myself.

But in a recent post he asked questions, and I decided to answer them. I would suggest going to the original post to get the background. I am posting my comment below the break.

Read more...Collapse )


The Mirrors Truth*

The Kepler space craft has been looking for planets for about three years now. It's kind of hard to imagine so much time has gone past. But just look at what it has accomplished! Well over two thousand planet candidates, of which experts estimate 80% will turn out to be the real deal. 1600+ new planets! In three years! I can dig it. Of course it will take time to confirm which candidates are actually planets or not. That's fine, patience is a virtue and all that. So why is three years any different than two years, or one year, other than the amount of planet candidates? The type of planets we might soon start to find.

You see, the Kepler team requires three transits (when the planet passes in front of the star, causing a dip in the light, which is how Kepler finds planets) in order to confirm a candidate as a planet. Which means that if there are any planets kinda like Earth out there, now is about the earliest we would be expecting to start seeing them. Of course, we would have to be able to detect a planet similar in size to Earth orbiting a similar star (the ultimate hope of this planet hunting game is to find a planet that isn't just similar (Small, rocky, and in the habitable zone) but a mirror image of Earth (Same size, density, star type, habitable zone, etc). From the dip in the light curve of a star that is produced by a planet transiting it we can determine orbital period (time between transits), size (how much light gets blocked), and from this we can estimate mass**, density, and from that composition etc. Which means that in order to find a mirror Earth we have to find a planet similar in size around another star. Which we have just done!

Which is exciting yes, but a more ordinary form of exciting. This was always known about the Kepler mission, that it would take awhile to start finding small, rocky planets similar to our own. We knew that to find a mirror Earth we would have to wait about three years. So while it's exciting to be at this particular cusp of history, it's not unexpected. What is exciting is found in this infographic I stole from space.com.

Learn about the latest Kepler space telescope discovery of alien Earths, Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, in this SPACE.com infographic.


You see that teeny weeny little yellow triangle in the bottom graphic? Yeah, that's Kepler's search area. That miniscule blip on our galactic neighborhood is all that Kepler is looking at. And it has returned thousands of candidates, adding potentially hundreds of new planets to our understanding of the cosmos. And it has just proven that it is indeed capable of finding the elusive mirror Earth. From what, like one tenth of one percent of the galaxy? That's what's so exciting to me. This is by no measure a comprehensive catalogue of galactic planets. It's not even a full sweep of the immediate neighborhood. This is standing on the porch and counting the number of houses until the end of the block.

We have so much more left to discover!

*I couldn't  think of a title, so I went with In Flames.

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** A different technique is used which measures the gravitational tug on a star by a planet to determine it's mass. But this technique only works for planets massive enough to noticeably move their parent star. In this case, we know that these planets have a maximum mass [they aren't moving their star around], we know what their orbital period is, and we have a good idea of the size. From these three things we can get a rough estimate of their mass. I didn't figure this out until after I posted the article. I should know by now that I should read Bad Astronomy to get my facts straight.


Scientific Inspiration

To be completely honest, this isn't my actual position on either science, religion, or how they interact. But that's fine, this was my official position in the debate I just had for my philosophy class. So now you have it!

"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead" - Einstein

What is life without that which inspires us? We have a need for mystery, excitement. We crave wonder and awe. We have only to look at the greatest stories from our past: Odysseus, The Rig VedaEnuma Elis - These stories spoke of a connection between us, small as we are, and the vastness of creation and the realms of Gods. But we need not contain ourselves to ancient history. The best non-comedic television shows are about amazing people doing amazing things in amazing places. The best-selling books take us from our normal lives and allows us, briefly, to be in an extraordinary situation. But nothing inspires us, nothing fulfills us, quite like religion. Religion has been the single most potent source of awe and wonder throughout history. The vast majority of art is dedicated to it, grand charitable works are carried out in its name, and whole nations have gone to war over it. Nothing else compares to the impact that religion has had on human inspiration, no matter how many technological toys we possess.

Science, for all that it has done for us, and for all the questions it has answered, does not inspire the same sense of wonder that religion does. To be fair, there is much that can be inspiring about science. And there have been great teachers of science, like Carl Sagan, who can instill in us a sense of the numinous so profound we are forever changed by it. But these people are rare. Science is seen, by and large, to be a devotion to the mundane. Science is perceived to take the mystery out of life. As the saying goes, we can't know everything, and even if we could, I wouldn't want to. We want mystery in our lives. We seek the unknown as often as we fear it. We wish to know of great mysteries, and we wish to know that great mystery still exists. We want to know and we don’t want to know. We are a very conflicted species.

So we have merely to look around us to see that religion has provided more inspiration than science. But what is it about religion that makes it so inspirational? The majority of religions I had opportunity to investigate contained some version of a leap of faith. This leap leaves behind the physical world. We look deep within ourselves to know what is true, and we leap. This is an empowering decision. We own that choice like we own no other choice. What we leap towards is equally as exhilarating. We take the leap in the hopes that we will be granted entrance into some greater cosmic reality. We wish to transcend our physical reality and take part in the deepest mysteries of creation.

And this leap of faith must be blind. We are not allowed to glimpse heaven before devoting ourselves to God. We cannot perceive enlightenment until we are on the Noble Eight Fold Path. We cannot achieve Nirvana while attached to material things. We must go beyond physical reality in order to understand divinity.

Thus we are granted free will. There will never be empirical certainty in a blind leap of faith. We must always trust our gut when choosing to devote ourselves to a higher power. There is always a rational reason not to believe in God. We can always make sound arguments against a particular religion, even religion as a whole. But religion is not about empirical truth, it is about spiritual truth; a truth that can only be found by taking a leap of faith. We will always have the choice of what we wish to believe.

But what is free will without the ability to discern how the natural world works? Free will without a mind capable of understanding the world around us is meaningless. If we cannot have knowledge of the world how are we to know what decisions we should make? We are evidently capable of great things when we know of the world, and we certainly (at least most of us) can live our lives tolerably well. The only way we are capable of doing this is by understanding how the world works. If we have free will we must have a rational mind that can understand our environment.

This is how science undermines religion. Science is relentlessly rational, unfailingly logical. It accepts as proof only that which can be empirically validated. Science deals with the physical world and the physical world only. It is this focus on the natural that allowed us to build the pyramids, gothic cathedrals, and massive church organs. It is reason and logic that allowed us to cure polio, invent the iPod, and send people to the moon. We are capable of grand things when we understand the natural world. This understanding comes from knowing empirical truths.

But every empirical truth we have restricts a deity’s ability to interact with the natural world. Every time we observe a phenomenon that is simply not physically possible, a burning bush or a levitating Buddhist, we gather more evidence of Gods existence. This evidence provides empirical certainty of a supernatural power. This explains why we don’t see such things all that often. To do so would destroy the power of a leap of faith, undermining the empowerment brought forth by taking that leap. In order to provide free will, a creator must cut itself off from its own creation.

Science undermines religion by providing a greater understanding of the natural world. The more we know of our world the less opportunity a deity has to directly interact with that world. We are slowly eroding our connection with the divine, cutting ourselves off from it ever since we first ate from the tree of knowledge. Religious devotion is becoming harder and harder to defend, thanks to the progress of science. And as religion fades, so too does the sense of awe and wonder that brought forth Michelangelo's Pieta, Bach's Ave Maria, Caravaggio's The Entombment of ChristScience has yet to bring forth such passion, such inspiration, as that felt by the greatest of artisans.

"There has to be more to life than problem solving. If that were the case, what would be the point of getting out of bed in the morning? We have to have something that inspires us, something that makes us proud to be members of the human race"
Elon Musk

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Rationalizing The System

            I have never known what 401(k) means. I have to imagine that it has something to do with the tax code. But really, other than the fact that a 401(k) has a complicated tax identity, I have no basis for making that assumption. What I do know is that 401(k)'s are one of the most popular of retirement plans, and that the interest earned on the account comes from wise investing by your investment advisor. A lot of people have such a retirement account. A lot of businesses offer some form of employer investing options, as well as sometimes stock in the company. For the most part, it works. I guess that is why people find a 401(k) plan to be so useful. For most people, after the initial setup and other than job changes, all they do is let the employer handle the details and watch their retirement savings grow.

            At least, that's how it works out most of the time. There are times when our retirement plans don't work out, when a 401(k), or any other long term savings plan, fails to pay out. Unfortunately, this is usually catastrophic. The only time a well managed stock portfolio loses a drastic portion of its worth is when the market as a whole tanks. This sort of stuff happens periodically. It would be nice if each of these events could be explained by some force outside of the market, something like war, drought, or natural disaster. But this is not the case. Time and time again we see the stock market rush into the clouds, only to burst and come crashing down to the ground. Time and time again we see these volatile boom and bust cycles occurring due to nothing more than investor sentiment.

            This has to stop. We cannot continue to let our economic system be ruled by the capricious whims of an erratic investing populace. We must take steps to insure the dual goals of a highly stable market and sufficient promotion of business growth. This is no easy task. There may be many ways to achieve such a goal, there may only be one, but I can assure you that the path to a stable economic future does not lie with the twins beasts of greed and fear.
            The way I see it, there are a few key flaws in our current investment paradigm that, when addressed, will bring us a significant way towards those twin goals. The first is this: Most financial decisions are weighed against the past performances of similar stocks (technical analysis and the efficient market hypothesis) One of the biggest reasons for this is that it's simpler than the alternative. You see, for all its data, for all its math, for all its statistics, technical analysis is still easier than fundamental analysis. Why? Because the data necessary for technical analysis is readily available in concise formats. The stock market records the sales, and thus the prices, of all the stocks being traded. This is constantly being recorded and stored. This creates a wealth of data about the past behavior of the market. Technical analysis has easy access.

            Fundamental analysis does not consider the past behavior of stock prices in determining the investment value of any given stock. This form of analysis looks at a company’s makeup, characteristics, income, expenses, debt, and viability to determine whether the company is worth investing in. But the data required for this type of analysis is spread out and diverse, lost amidst financial reports, board meeting minutes, tax statements, and balance sheets. To further complicate matters, each individual company holds some of this information, with the rest being scattered amongst a variety of private and government agencies. This data is hard to access, and even harder to compile. Investors do make use of some of the tenets of fundamental analysis, but this is usually filtered through the business news media. Most of the information that is available is based more on the subjective opinions of a few talking heads more than it is based on any concrete, objective metrics. To be fair, some factors involved in fundamental analysis are impossible to be quantified, but there has yet to be any attempt on creating some form of cohesive set of standards for performing a fundamental analysis.
The second flaw is a detachment from the companies invested in. When making a sound investment decision little heed is paid to what is best for the company. This is natural. When we invest we are seeking out our own welfare, be it a secure retirement or instant millions. But in completely neglecting the potential of the company we lose the opportunity to help a company succeed (and bring us a profit to boot). We, as investors, need to understand that the market affects more than just the investors. Bad press or a negative review can doom a startup company, a company that might have made millions (and us along with them), had they sufficient funds when starting up. Furthermore, by allowing opinion and sentiment to control our investment decisions, we deplete our option as consumers. When sentiment strangles a company it prevents that company from putting their products on the shelves so that you the consumer can buy them.

            We need access to the information necessary to make an informed decision about the viability of a company. Therefore I propose that we create a codified standard of measurement of a company’s fundamental worth. These standards should, wherever possible, be an objective, quantitative measurement. When this is not possible, every effort should be made to justify any qualitative claims about a company. These standards would be much akin to a mix between the relatively standardized rating standards employed by the major credit bureaus and the individualized testing employed by consumer reports. In this way we can assess both qualitative and quantitative aspects of a company with ease.

            I also propose that this information be made readily available, so that any given individual can expend a minimum amount of effort to find this information. While a government organization/regulatory agency may be needed to ensure the proper functioning of such a data system, I believe that independent companies will be best suited to this task. Oddly enough, a lot of the recent ‘Open Government’ stuff has made great strides in making vast data sources available to the public. Hans Rosling and his website, ‘GapMinder’, makes available not just huge reams of data, but the statistical tools needed to understand the data. It is therefore possible for a company or government entity to supply the information as I have suggested in this proposal.

            The ultimate goal of this process (standardize and compile the data, make it available, and base a ratings system off of it) would be to have private companies managing this data, with government oversight reserved for the disbursement of the data as well as allegations of fraud and other such despicable actions. After achieving the first two goals it becomes possible for a company to exist that makes regular assessments of companies, based on a common standard and a transparent grading method. They would take the publicly available data and use that as a basis for their credit rating and assessment of any given company. This creates an incentive for companies to create the strongest, most sustainable companies in order to get the best rating. This would provide investors with a simple resource for cursory research into potential investment options.

            This would also open up a new way of investing. There is one form of investment I have neglected thus far, and that is the bond market. Whereas a stock is essentially an asset, a positive amount in a company’s accounting department, a bond is a debt. Investors give the company money, with the expectation that the money be returned at a specific date. This is very similar to what becomes possible with the ratings system I have outlined. With such a system it is possible to set up a bank style loan system in which a company seeks out a specific sum of money from a brokerage firm. This firm sets the terms of the loan, the interest rate, monthly payments, etc, and gives the company the funds. The firm then turns around and offers investors a portion of that loan. An investor will then give their money to the firm, who now has fresh capital to fund another loan. The firm will divide the monthly payments made by the company amongst the shareholders of the loan. Investors would not have the option of terminating the loan prematurely (at least not without penalty, much like private CD's are run).

             This allows a company to have more control over their finances, reducing risk from an unstable market. This allows the investor a clear and simple way to judge a company, as well as maintaining the diverse portfolio needed to insure their investments from loss. Each Brokerage firm would offer different loan/investment packages, much like banks offer their loans. Each company could seek out the loan package that works best for them, with the terms that best suit them. Investors can have a balanced portfolio consisting of long, short, or medium term investments, a mix of high risk/high yield - low risk/low yield investments, as well as a diverse array of companies invested in. But most importantly, these investment decisions will be made using clear, hard data regarding the merits and potential of an individual company.

  I see a problem with our current stock market. It is highly unstable and easily controlled by public sentiment. There is no secure foundation for most of our investment options. What I propose is not an alternative, but a complement. Investors need a better understanding of the fundamental worth of a company. Using the method I have described allows a minimum of government interference, a stable investment model, diversity in investment choices, as well as creating new investment choices. The addition of bank style loans and a comprehensive database to our investment markets will help stabilize the market and limit the damage from a major economic disaster.


An Irrational System

"Panic is the simple word to describe the mood today…"1

            Panic is something that generally happens during a fire, or an earthquake. Panic is a sudden, overpowering fright that abolishes reason and logic. Panic is not what is needed during an emergency, such as a typhoon or wildfire. What is needed is calm, considered thought and logical problem solving. Panic is not what we need in our economic system, especially when that panic is generated by that economic system. The vast majority of crashes, recessions, and panics that I could find were not caused by natural disaster. They were caused by the actions of investors, monetary institutions, and regulatory agencies.

            The quote above was in response to Japan's economic maneuvering, which was itself in response to their concerns about the economic crises in America and Europe. We see something similar happen again this past September, just change Japan to USA.4,5 There are many examples of fear and worry driving the market, but the most explicit is the example set by the US and Germany in 1987.2 It is clear that fear and greed rule the stock market. People want their investments to pay off, and they will invest in any company and engage in any new investing technique if they think it will make them money. It is this greed, this mindlessly rapacious desire for money, that has created every bubble and boom we've endured. And it is fear, the mind numbing horror we call panic, that is behind every recession and depression we have been witness to. Our current method of investment, most notably the stock market, is a dangerously unstable and unnecessary appendage to our economic system. But we have other options.
            Starting a business is hard. Aside from getting known, hiring good people, and not getting buried by the responsibility, it's expensive. Most people need a loan, even just to start a home business. Happily, banks will extend loans to such people. Usually, though not always, banks are pretty responsible about this. They check your credit; compare your income to expenses, amount of debt, and a whole host of other factors before they give you their money. They do this so as to ensure that they will see a return on their investment. A well structured and administered loan will create wealth on both sides of the table, due in no small part to such strict lending guidelines.

            But sometimes a bank loan just doesn't cut it. A new tech company might need massive capital upfront, more than a bank will risk. Sometimes a company needs to expand but can't afford to build a new building. This is the genesis of the stock market. The stock market was a way for people to invest their money in a company, so that companies could grow and people could prosper. Companies sell shares in order to get new capital, people buy those shares in the hopes that they can sell them for a higher price. Hopefully, that higher price comes from the company's success. But all too often it comes from sentiment.

            The vast majority of stock news is about how people feel about a company. Very rarely will you hear a Wall Street reporter talk about the company being invested in. There is never a discussion of how viable a new company is, or of its quality. What are discussed are predictions, worries, hopes, and image, but never substance. There is a lot of talk about sentiment, about hope and fear, and there is little talk of the fundamentals of the company being invested in. This goes a long way towards explaining the tech bubble from the late 1990's.

            Beginning in about 1995, tech companies, especially those dealing with the internet, started to see a huge rise in demand. So a bunch of people started their own tech companies, and they started to make money. Investors watched this, and were quick to invest in any company that ended with a .com. This drove stock prices for these companies through the roof. This created a bubble, where the stock price was way beyond the actual worth of the company. Then the bubble burst, and reality caught up with fantasy. By 2000 it was all over. Most of the companies failed, taking with them millions in investor money. Investor confidence plummeted, and more companies failed. Sad as it is to see savvy investor lose all their money, what is more worrisome is the people who had invested for retirement.  

            People fear what the stock market will do. As fervently as they hope their gamble will pay off, they fear that it will not. In fact this fear can often be self-fulfilling. In October 1987 the Treasury Secretary James Baker was in discussions with German ministers in an attempt to bolster the economy. Baker wanted the Germans to lower their interest rate in an attempt to strengthen the dollar. Germany basically said no. Baker alluded to letting the dollar sink further in order to compensate. This was said on Thursday.3 By Monday the Dow had plummeted and the dollar had lost a lot of its value.4 Neither Germany nor the US had made any moves on the matter in the mean time. The only reason the stock market fell was because investors were afraid it would fail. This fear created the failure they were afraid of.

            This story is told over and over again. The opening quote is from an article where, once again, fear caused the drops in the market that brought about the panic. In September 2011 investors caused a severe downturn in the market simply because the Federal Reserve warned of certain risks in the American markets. Fear is what causes a market to crash, and hope is what makes it into a bubble. People will always look for the safest investment with the biggest gains. They will try any new trick or advice, engage in any new practice, if it looks like they will make money from it. This optimism, this faith in a technique, can often outpace the actual growth that the stock market was intended to create. Inevitably reality will catch up with the market, bringing it back in line. This causes a drop in the market. Investors see this drop, and fear it will continue. They expunge all stock associated with the fall, and this causes the fall to continue. Market volatility will always exist in the stock market. This is because the stock market is determined not by the actual merits and successes (or failures) of the companies invested in, but in investor sentiment.

            It is this hope/fear relationship which makes the stock market unstable. No matter how strong the foundation of the company, if the investors trading their stocks do not feel optimistic about the company they will not buy their stock. Without that investment, the company cannot function. The company fails. This causes more concerns, more worry in the investment atmosphere. This in turn causes people to be more cautious in their investments, making it even harder for a company to succeed. The public is capricious, and their fear makes the market negatively volatile. On the flip side is hope, the same hope that inflated the dot com bubble. Reality came back, the bubble burst, and we no longer have Netscape. People always hope the next big thing will be a sure thing.

            Most people do not have the option to constantly watch the stock market in order to make the most prudent investment choices. Most people don't have the skills, the time, or the resources to pay someone to do it for them. This means their only option is to make long term investments. Their only hope is to count on consistent growth. But the strongest companies do not follow this trend. They grow, either slowly or quickly, and then level out. IBM, Apple, GM (Until 2008), all have had very stable stock prices. A strong company is not volatile. They are rather sedentary in fact. But this does not produce dividends for a new investor. Without those dividends there is no reason to invest, from the investor's point of view. This brings about the unrealistic expectation of constant growth.

            As a publicly traded company is reliant on the stock market for its future, any given company must somehow deal with this demand for constant growth. No company can expect to survive in today's market unless they promise constant growth. Any time the market thinks a company is about to peak, or worse, they already have, investors will pull out their money and bottom out the stock. This loss of money can cripple a company. The only way to meet investor demand is to do whatever is necessary to bring profits into the company, thus bolstering its stock price. This is the fundamental shift a company must make in order to supply the markets demand for constant growth: Care not for the customer, but for the stock holder.

            When in a panic people will cause the very thing they are afraid of. They act impulsively, irrationally, and they can often do great harm. When hope for financial security turns to greed people stop acting rationally. They make unrealistic demands of the companies they invest in. They fear that companies cannot meet their demands. Hope and fear together make the market highly volatile. The fact that market price is determined in a large part by sentiment makes the system inherently unstable. Hope and fear put an unreasonable demand on companies, who react by shortchanging the customer. This vicious cycle has to stop.

            But how then would those companies get the capital they need to start and grow? Angel investment is one way. Bond sales are another. What about bank style investments? You put your money in and earn interest on a regular basis. Or you invest for a specified amount of time at a specified rate. Or at the very least, have a credit rating system for companies when they become public. That way any given investor can at least have a guide to the company as an individual, rather than following along with cable investor talking heads.

            Regardless of our future actions, one thing is clear: The stock market is a failed experiment that needs to end. It is inherently unstable, unfailingly volatile, and injurious to those whose only goal is to grow old in peace. It is predicated on people's emotions, not actual business viability. It creates unrealistic expectations that cannot be sustained, either by the market or by the companies invested in. The stock market is a far too dangerous, far too unpredictable a thing to be at the core of our economic system.
1:  Wearden, Graeme & Batty, David. "Stock Markets Plunge - Thursday 4 August 2011" TheGuardian.co.uk 04 Aug. 2011 Web -
2:  Kluger, Jeffrey. Simplexity Hyperion, 2008 Print Ch. 1
3:  Neikerk, William. "U.S. Warns Bonn on Dollar's Fall" Chicago Tribune 19 Oct. 1987: Print
4: AP, Journal Staff "Stocks Plunge On" The Milwaukee Journal 19 Oct. 1987: 1A+. News.google.com Web
5:  CNNMoney Staff. "World Markets In Major Sell-Off" CNNMoney CNN, 22 Sep. 2011 Web
6:  Cutter, Chip & Levy, Francesca. "Stocks Jump On Investor Hopes For A Europe Fix" Washington Times. Washington Times, 26 Sep. 2011 Economy sec. Web
Further Reading & Notes
Dristol, Zachary. "Gold May Continue To Climb On Fear And Market Volatility" Annuitynewsjournal.com Annuity News Journal, 28 Oct. 2011 Web - Worries over investments means people are investing in gold. This in turn is causing a bubble, which will burst when the other markets turn around.
Nielson Ratings, contact Frighetto, Jennifer "Consumer Confidence Survey: Economy Re-Emerges As Top Global Concern" Press Release, nielson.com Nielson 30 Oct. 2011 Web
World-exchanges.com World Federation of Exchanges - Association of 54 regulated exchanges around the world.
Gerlach, Douglas. "How A Stock Market Works" YoungMoney Young Money 29 Nov. 2005 Web

This is my English comp essay from last month. I never posted it because I didn't like it much. However, my teacher let the latest essay be a followup to this one, so now you get a two for one deal!


I don't understand this...

Ok, so one of the things climate change deniers do is to claim that the scientists are only in it for the money. (First mention in the third paragraph) This doesn't make any sense. Has anyone ever seen a scientist on MTV Cribs? No, and it's not just because science isn't seen as cool enough or whatever. It's because scientists, by and large, are not rich. Those few who are did not make their money from grants, either. They wrote best selling books after and during a successful career in science.

The mad scientist is one character type freque...

Image via Wikipedia

Lets say we give a scientist a million dollars. We tell them to do whatever they want with it. Sure, they'll buy tools for their shop, maybe something nice for the spouse, but they won't go nuts. You give a scientist a bunch of money and they are more likely to by an electron microscope than a Ferrari. A scientist is interested in research, experimentation, learning about the world and being enthralled by its beauty. About the only reason your average scientist has to buy a big screen TV is so that they can properly render their high speed, data collecting footage.  So I'm not sure where these deniers are coming from, thinking scientists are money grubbing bastards. But whatever, they are allowed their opinion (despite the fact that they get their talking points from oil company billionaires)

But that's not the oddest thing. I could see how someone might be cautious about signing over a massive amount of cash to someone, with no idea what they are going to do with it. But the money the deniers are talking about is grant money. It's not a personal check. It's a highly sought after, discrete amount of money that is only for a specific purpose - Grant money goes to the school they do their research at more than the scientists themselves. What does go to the scientist is their salary. Unless you don't think people shouldn't get paid for the work they do, there isn't much of a problem with this. And of course, that salary comes from more than just grants. Things like tuition and stuff also goes into their salary. Because research scientists at universities are also (gasp!) teachers.

I just don't understand the money angle. Scientists aren't in it for the money. If they were it would be obvious. They'd drive better cars, have bigger apartments, not waste their time teaching people, things like that. If you want to be rich, strike oil. If you want to learn about the world, be a scientist. Money is not a motivation for a scientist to undermine science.

While it was hard to find any sources that actually said where they got their figures from, I did find that most were in a similar range, and matched well with those from either: Reputable sources; or sources which detailed their data collecting technique. Here are a few, just to show that most scientists don't make much money.







Sorry for the quick and dirty linkage, but I don't feel like cleaning them up right now. I used CNN, Simply Hired, and Indeed.com for my sources.


Ok, so here's my final installment of links. This one was harder because I have a lot of stuff I just never visit, so I had to visit them before I posted them. Which took awhile. And was slightly annoying, as I realized most of the links I have are utter crap. But these ones aren't!
Language & Writing
Dialect Blog - great posts about all the different dialects of English.  always worth a look.
Visual Thesaurus - Awesomness in words.
The Open Notebook - Great resource for writing tips
Paperrater - A good final check for essays. Grades, word counts, all that, all in one place. And free!
Etomyonline - Online etymological dictionary
Politics & Society
Factcheck - Both these websites are all about fact checking political statements. This is a very handy resource.
Open Secrets
Global Debates - Online debates regarding global issues
Fora - A lot of cool stuff in here. Mostly conservative. Lots of videos.
TED - Like Fora, but more liberal.
Free Knowledge
Justice - The Harvard class
MIT Open Course - Online classes, to varying degrees of depth.
Academic Earth - like the above, but pulls from all universities.
Miss Elaine Eeus
Forkes Report - My uncles blog.
Skeptics Guide to the Universe
Skeptics Dictionary
The Internet Archive - Home of the wayback machine!
Library at Alexandria - Not the one burned down, but a modern equivalent. Which is neat.
There you go, a shit ton of links for your viewing pleasure. I have some more stuff to write for school, and those will be posted soon. Also anything else I feel like writing, but I know for sure I'll write the stuff for school. I paid good money for the classes, so failure is not an option. If I do fail, Gene Kranz will kick my ass. Probably not, but you never know. Cheers!


Linkage: Science & stuff

Ok, so yesterday I posted a bunch of links. They all had to do with space. This time I've done the same, but with only three links about space! The rest is interesting too.
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Sunrise from Pike&#39;s Peak, Colorado

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